Once the dismissal bell rang at 2PM, all the kids rushed to pack their backpacks and waited with fake patience at their desks for the teacher's dismissal.
Once we were out, the young, exuberant faces rush to the boxy, blue and white portable classrooms at the edge of campus. We check in with the after school care coordinator at the door and then rush in to find the best spots to hang up our sweaters and stuff our overstuffed backpacks into the cubbies.
It's Silent Reading and Homework Time. My friends and I spent the following hour and a half coughing to stifle our laughter. I'm ticklish and they know that. So they poke me, daring me to screech in laughter. They laugh, so I laugh. It's funny being tickled, but they probably had more fun at it than I did. With each gigglish cough, the staffs' forehead wrinkles seemed to deepen with every frown.
After a frustrating hour of trying to keep us in our seats, the staff announced it was finally recess time. We quickly stuffed our papers and pencils back into our backpacks. In a single file line, we speed walked towards the jungle of monkey bars, slides, rails, and miniature rock climbing walls. We cycled through the various games: tag, four square, and kickball. In tag, I found myself to be always "it." I was the one chasing my friends, as they ran away from me screaming, laughing, and taunting me to catch them. They chose me because I thought they liked me, but I couldn't ignore my rising frustration of chasing but never being able to reach them. In four square, they smirked at me as they easily outed me from the game over and over again. But I was a good sport, so I got back in line, waiting my turn. I was having fun, because they let me play with them. We played together and laughed together, and that's what friends are supposed to do. After a few too many games of chasing and waiting in line for my turn, I eventually found myself hanging upside down from the monkey bars, showing off my agility and seven year old strength to anyone who noticed.
As time passed and the sky slowly greyed, the anticipation slowly crept over me until I was completely giddy with excitement.
Any minute now! I continued to play, but my eyes kept finding its way to the entrance of the playground. My ears, searching for the call of my name from the coordinator standing watch at the entrance. Finally! I hear my name being announced from across the metal trees, the winding plastic vines, and the shouts of "Tag, You're it!" I run towards the entrance, towards my dad's opened arms awaiting me. Once I get close enough I slow down. I take a few steps back, giving myself enough room for a running start.
"Come here baby!" my dad shouts.
I push off the ground and sprint into his familiar warm torso. He bear hugs me and swings me around and around until I beg him to stop out of dizziness and being out of breath from laughing. It was only this morning since he dropped me off at school, but I missed him so much. This time, I knew it was someone who laughed with me in pure joy. Someone who touched me in love and familiarity, rather than to see me squirm in discomfort.
Someone who allowed me to smile for myself.