I scroll through the channels to find my favorite, not that it matters. Today, they’re all airing the same thing. The sound is turned down low but the yellow jacket and red headband draw me in like a magnet. I turn up the sound. Amanda Gorman is etching a moment in time.
The newscaster says something about the dawn of a new day but the morning dishes are piled on top of more that linger from dinner. The newscasters are wrong. Dawn and dusk have been indistinguishable for the past 10 months. Time lingers.
My son is home today. A sore throat has turned into sneezing and sniffling. Is he getting worse? Assume its Covid. My late night Googling haunts me. While I wait for the nurse to call back, we learn that the President’s limo is nicknamed “the Beast.” Then the questions come: Are the windows bulletproof? Can he just take it to get a pizza? How many police follow him? Does the Vice President get a limo like that? What does inauguration mean?
A question I can answer. But first I want to ask him to say “inauguration” again. Mispronounced words don’t come around very often anymore. I want to take a minute to remember this one. Did he say iganurtion? Ingaration? The announcers fill dead time with more facts about how much security has been increased, more facts about prior inaugurations, more platitudes about this unusual year, as if the teleprompter reads: Just keep talking.
My son is waiting for his answer. I tell him, “an inauguration is a ceremony to mark the start of something new.” He says inauguration again perfectly. Four years ago he was half the age he is now. Time barrels on.
Flashes of red and blue dot the TV screen. The presidential motorcade is crawling up a deserted street. It looks a little unreal but also totally real, normal. They are heading to Arlington cemetery and I wonder if this is it. If this is the day where something unthinkable will happen or if the day will just unfold as it should. Anything can happen.
My son blows his nose. “Has the nurse called back yet? She’s taking forever. Am I going to have to get the test that scratches your brain? That’s what Owen said. I don’t think it’ll hurt. It’s like when I was so scared for the flu shot and then it was fine. You just think it’s going to hurt. But it doesn’t. When are we going? I don’t think I have Covid.” He just keeps talking.
In the somber cemetery, Kamala’s purple radiates hope. In the cluttered living room, my son’s sneezes pollute.
When we come back from the doctor, my oldest is working on a science assignment. He is learning about the earth’s rotation on its axis and revolutions around the sun. He watches a video that begins with a girl sitting on a train, looking out at a train on a parallel track. It looks as if the girls’ train is leaving the station. Moments later it is clear that the girl is sitting still while the other train is leaving the station.
We learned that even when we are perfectly still, we are moving. The earth is constantly and consistently moving around 1,000 mph. My sons are amazed. (Okay, we all are. How did I not know we moved so fast?)
The morning headlines proclaim a new day, a step forward, a return to normalcy. An email with the link to my son’s Covid test sits in my inbox. I’m pretty sure it’s just a cold. No one else in our family is sick. But anything can happen.
The morning is a return to normalcy. A return to that dizzying feeling wondering if I am the one moving or if it’s the world outside my window that’s moving.