Originally publish May 21 on Medium
I don’t know that I have a consistent writing process but the closest I have goes like this: open a blank page, stare at it for several minutes, get up for a drink, sit back down, type a few words, get up to get a snack, sit back down, erase what I wrote earlier, write something else, get up to wipe down a counter, sit back down, check social media. And it goes on. (“No, Mrs. Smith, I have no idea why my son can’t write a paragraph in one sitting.”)
This week, at step “check social media,” I stumbled upon this quote by Isabel Allende: write what should not be forgotten.
There are lots of people recording the press conferences and grocery store shortages, the stay-at-home orders and relaxing of those orders, the test kits and death tolls. The macro-level quarantine news will be well-covered for historians.
What about the thousands of moments here with only my people? I went back to my teacher-mom chair which sits across from my equally restless student-children, and began to think about all the things I don’t want to forget — many of which I’ve written about here.
Then I reread the quote. Should. What should not be forgotten.
We tend to remember the big events — all the firsts, birthdays, vacations, but what about the mundane realities that make up the majority of our lives? Have I accurately recorded our micro-level quarantine? What might be forgotten that shouldn’t?
When everyday feels the same, you wonder how you could forget, but you do. So this week, I took an honest look around at some of the minutiae that pads our days. Details that might otherwise be lost.
- The pink and purple flower petals that peek into my view while I sit at our school-outdoor table. I didn’t do anything to my pots all winter. By January only sticks remained, like skeletons poking through the dried soil. Around Easter, I noticed what looked like new growth in two pots, while weedy greens exploded in all the others. I didn’t touch any of it. A couple of weeks later, while the weeds sprawled, some of the skeletons sprouted buds. I wouldn’t say either flower is thriving, but they are surviving (see above).
- The weight of my son as he climbs into my lap for a hug after tears of frustration during “math.” His legs dangle to the floor and his head bumps mine but he finds a way to tilt into the crook of my neck and tuck his lanky arms into mine. Even when he doesn’t fit here, he’ll always fit here.
- The sound of apps, dinging and binging and clicking and talking with humanly robotic voices. Is it worse than toddler toys? And yet, somehow, it makes me miss toddler toys.
- The taste of salty french fries from outside the house. Sure, we’ve been baking and cooking and there’s some satisfaction in that but you can’t replicate steaming, crispy restaurant fries at home. You just can’t.
- Tripping over the mattress that takes up too much room in my son’s bedroom. He and his brother moved it for what started out as a sleepover. While the now shared room is too small, too cramped and a stray socks graveyard, I can’t bring myself to make them change a thing.
- The steady chirp of birds — all day long. Despite leaf blowers and temper tantrums and dogs barking. They reassure with their songs and gossip and angry rants.
- The hair that quietly fell to the ground after my first shaky attempt at grooming my men. Watching strands of orange and brown and grey tangled together like tumbleweed in the wind felt like I had entered another place or life or time.
- The first 10 minutes of school which includes more ups and downs and arounds than a bad carnival ride. The search for the “favorite” pencil, despite a cup full of pencils in the middle of the table. After a walk around the house, garage, neighborhood, we find it in the cup, in the middle of the table. The drink we forgot to pour before we sat down. But dang it, we forgot ice. The search for a charger because even though we swore our iPad was charged, maybe it wasn’t. The blanket because it’s a little chilly outside (until it gets too hot and we spend another 10 minutes fussing about that). The snack, the paper, the headphones, the trip to the bathroom…some days this dance is amusing and I think what funny boys I have. Other days, it makes me consider jamming the favorite pencil in my eye.
Actually, if I had to sum up most of my day to day feelings, it would be flip flopping from one end of this spectrum to the other. Everything is roses until it isn’t. It’s all love and laughs until we flop to fighting and anger.
We’ve been trying to even out our highs and lows with walks and bike rides and takeout. Biding our time. We spent most of March and April waiting. Waiting for news. Waiting for tomorrow. Waiting for people to fall ill or recover. Waiting to grieve. Waiting to make plans. Waiting to visit. Waiting to go. Waiting for a switch to flip.
But as April bled into May, the waiting has faded. There is no switch. Masks and gloves now decorate the bench above our pile of shoes by the front door. We do the things we can.
If my goal is to write what should not be forgotten it’s this: I can spend my whole life waiting for what’s next. That’s no way to live. Instead, take a good look around at what is. Go find the flowers peeking into view, listen to the birds, order french fries. Stop waiting. This is it.