Actually, it might be broken.
One of the things I fear most -- aside from an allergic reaction -- happened today.
Susan was subdued when she came home. She'd gone directly from her junior high school to Chess Club at her elementary school, so, I did not see her right after school...but, I knew the minute she walked in the door that something was...not right.
I actually had all the pieces I needed to put it together before she even walked in the door...but...I hadn't.
Sadly. But, even if I had, I'm not entirely sure what I would have done about it...if anything. For really, I am quite powerless in this particular situation.
It wasn't hard to get Susan talking...
"Susan's" peanut and tree-nut free lunch table has dwindled to three friends. Today, all three of those friends were on a special field trip. They had (as good friends might do) forewarned Susan about this...and unbeknownst to me, Susan had been thinking about it. A lot. She won't admit that she was worrying about it, but, from the look on her face, I'm pretty sure she had been.
Today, when Susan walked into lunch, she did so with the heavy knowledge that she was quite likely to be alone at "her" table. She had asked a couple of the girls who used to sit at her table if they would join her there today, but, they didn't. And, while a part of me wants to be angry with them, how can I be? It isn't THEIR responsibility to ensure that Susan does not sit alone. It really isn't. I believe this.
As Susan, my husband and I sat in the living room, Susan explained -- with a stoic look barely hiding the tears -- that she sat alone from the beginning of lunch until "her" table was called up to get milk...and for about "two minutes" after that.
Do you have any idea how long that is?
I just sat through two minutes. It was interminably long.
Take two minutes. Try it.
Imagine being eleven and sitting -- stranded, alone -- at "your" lunchroom table. Susan cried as she talked about it, and I hardly knew what to say.
Eventually, some of the girls who sit at one of the other peanut and tree nut free tables (an "overflow" table for one of the "popular" students), invited Susan to join them. She knows some of them from Girl Scouts, and others from class...and skates with one of them. Susan knows some better than others. In the end, it doesn't matter who they were (and yet, it does, for these girls were so compassionate...their caring cannot be overlooked) -- I am so tremendously thankful to that group of girls who saw a truly terrible situation and did something about it.
But even so, I am angry in a way that I cannot find words to express, at the situation Susan was (is) in. It DOES NOT have to be this way. And, I fervently wish it were not. And, despite my best efforts, I am powerless to change it.
I know there are people -- parents, school administrators...even some parents of children with food allergies -- who believe this type of arrangement works. But, I do not. And...I hold today's situation up as proof.
As I sat on our sofa with Susan, hugging and comforting her, I looked at her...and as our eyes met, we said "Next Year."
I so hope she (we) are right. And while I feel tremendously grateful for Susan's opportunity in the clinical trial, I cannot help but wonder about those who face her same situation without the hope we now cling to...