Upon coming home Monday afternoon from a day of Christmas shopping with Mr. Lucky, we found a message on the answering machine from the nurse at Baby Bear’s school: He had a runny nose, and would I please call her?
The call came around mid-morning. She hadn’t called a second time, nor had she tried Mr. Lucky’s cell, and by the time we got this message, it was past two o’clock and Baby Bear would be out of school just after three. His school, an Exceptional Student Center (ESC) for children with special needs, is next to a high school that lets out at about the same time we listened to this message. The nurse said nothing about picking up Bear, which was just as well. There was no point in trying to go to his school now, especially with the high school getting out.
Several years ago, when the Crown Prince was a student at the ESC, they called me to get him after he cast up some accounts, and I arrived just as the high school was released. By the time I got the Crown Prince in the car, the People in Orange Vests, who patrolled the parking lots and thoroughfares around the three schools (there’s also a middle school on the other side of the ESC), would not let me out. A sign posted at the entrance to this vortex clearly stated “Buses Only 2:45-3:15 PM” and I was not driving a bus. We had to wait in the parking lot till all the buses had left. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince had to open the passenger door to toss more cookies to the ground. The Person in Orange Vest who stood in front of my vehicle glaring at me was unmoved by my firstborn’s plight. Rules were rules.
As Baby Bear got off the bus Monday afternoon, the bus driver handed me a letter signed by the school nurse. It was a form letter. “We will call you immediately if your child becomes ill during school hours. You are expected to arrange for your child to be picked up AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE after receiving our call.” (Caps theirs.)
This was followed by a list of the usual maladies that resulted in children being sent/kept home from school. The nurse had checked Item 8: “Excessive mucus from nose (runny nose), particularly greenish-yellow mucus.”
Neither Mr. Lucky nor I saw any mucus of any color seeping out of that kid’s nose Monday morning, nor did we see any Monday night after receiving this letter. But the bus driver was bound by that letter not to pick him up Tuesday morning. We were to keep him out of school for the next 24 hours.
Meanwhile, I read the teacher’s entry for that day in the notebook he and I use to communicate our thoughts about the progress and behavior of our autistic, non-verbal Baby Bear. According to the teacher, Bear was very active on this day, enjoying himself on the computer, etc. His nose ran a little after he was outside, but the weather's been cold lately. Otherwise, there was nothing to indicate he was unwell.
Tuesday, we still saw no sign of any mucus. Baby Bear was in his usual high spirits, banging on and bouncing off walls, dangling from the rafters, swinging from the chandeliers, and running an entire decathlon in the house. He wanted to go out for donuts, we took him out for donuts. He wasn’t sick. But he had a whale of a good time staying out of school.
Then we got a phone call from the school, a recording which informed us that our child (they referred to him by name) had “an unexcused absence”, and would we please call the school to explain.
ARGH! They’re the ones who ordered us to keep him home on Tuesday because they said he was sick—though he clearly (let alone greenly or yellowishly) wasn’t—and now they were calling it “an unexcused absence”? I was too incensed to call them back.
Today, Baby Bear went back to school without incident, and came home this afternoon with no note.
And still no mucus.