Originally posted on April 7 on Medium
We got news that we’ll most likely, probably, 99.9 but not 100% definitely out of school until the new year begins. Of course, we knew this was coming. It’s not like it was a surprise. Still, the news breezed in and snuffed out a candle.
My fourth grader is going to miss “Gold Rush.” I don’t actually know what happens exactly on Gold Rush Day, it seems to be one of those annual events you never forget. The entire fourth grade class travels back 170 years and visits an old Western town during the gold rush. In my head, it’s like he’d be stepping into an episode of Little House on the Prarie. My son started talking about the cowboy hat he’d need to buy sometime last year, when we were still new to the school and he first heard legends of the best day in elementary school.
Then I started thinking about how the sixth graders will miss their last days at the only school some of them have likely ever known.
Then I started thinking about 8th graders who may be scattering to different high schools next year and missing their own seminal events and I got sad for the middle schoolers too.
It kept coming: prom, senior skip day, graduation, that week in college when Spring arrives and quads fill with sunshine and kids and the understanding that the years in between high school and adulting are a gift. I felt bad for all those kids, too.
Then I thought about the kids who decided to skip college to work and make money and maybe a lot of them have lost their jobs and I felt even worse. My gold rush sadness felt small but also heavier under the weight of the collective.
I drifted to the couch and watched The Office. Again. (Still?) An odd salve in these odd days.
This week, the curve kept curving. No one I know personally is infected. Hearing about the hundreds of thousands of sick and dying people in NY feels like hearing about the national debt. I know it’s real but I can’t imagine it. It makes me nervous and I know it affects me but it hasn’t really. I can see charts and graphs and explanations, but what does 100,000 deaths actually look like? It feels as impossible as a trillion dollars.
I watched a video with a tearful nurse talking about living away from her own kids to save strangers, and someone explaining what it’s like to feel like you can’t catch a breath and I reminded myself it wasn’t a documentary about some distant war.
I looked at my kids, and Jim and Dwight, and wondered if maybe I was sinking into the couch — cocooned in a dirty mess of sadness and fear and anger and helplessness and gratitude.
I slept restlessly. I woke up restless.
My parents live 3000 miles away and I can’t check on them like I wish I could. But in 5 minutes, I was able to contact one of their favorite local restaurants and arrange dinner for them. It was a small, simple thing but made me feel better.
Even 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do that as easily. Five months ago, I wouldn’t have thought to do it. Five months from now, I hope I still will.
Small simple actions are the only way to lift some of the weight.
The kids and I have been taking daily bike rides. PC (Pre-Covid. I’m so tired of that word.), we would stick mostly to our neighborhood. The neighborhoods behind us are up a giant hill and the neighborhoods in front of us are cut off by a very busy road. But now, DC (during COVID), we’ve successfully crossed that road and it somehow feels less dangerous. I’m not sure if this is because we’re more careful or more determined but it has literally opened up new avenues for us. We call these rides across the busy street “epic bike rides.”
Our epic rides are making my son’s legs stronger. I watch him go farther, faster every day. Like so many other points of change (whether invited or not), this is a period of transformation if we allow it to be.
I’ve read that caterpillars digest themselves during crystallis. The furry insect that inches along turns into a literal mush before emerging into a beauty that can fly. It sounds painful and gross but also kind of magical.
I’ve been increasingly annoyed at the constant references to our “new normal.” Maybe it’s not just because accepting this as normal feels so apocalyptic but because it’s not true. This isn’t a new normal, it’s just a new phase. We’re cocooning.
While cocooning may be painful and difficult and isolating and scary, it’s also a promise.
All the sadness and anger and gratitude and helplessness and confusion may be turning me to mush, but I have a say in how I let it change me. For once since this has started, I’m looking for just a little more time to figure out exactly what I want to do differently.
Today, I’ll start with another small, simple action.