The morning started out busily and with a tip of the hat to technology; Béla took an online class in rhyming and the art of the MC, while Claude spent over an hour on Zoom with her friend in Manchester, England.
Later, they both played Dungeons and Dragons online with some other kids via Zoom.
There should have, technically, been as many hours for school as there ever were, with only these other activities happening.
But there weren’t.
There is so much worry. And where there is not worry about tangible, bounded issues — people we care about who have tested positive and who are sick, whether or not there will be camp this summer, the news that the city was closing all the pubic pools — there is just the general sense of, well, loss. And strong indicators that we are just at the start of something that could get a lot worse.
I cannot pretend we are just at home with our board games and Zoom chats and green screen kit and that people just like us are not rotting in U-Haul trucks, having seen none of their loved ones before they died. This is real. This is happening. And if this started out like a Stephen King novel, it’s even more like one now; anyone who has read a lot of King knows that the real terror pivots on the idiots who finally manage to put together the words You don’t get to tell me what to do.
Now everyone is bored of the minute-to-minute terror of a disease that they only know they don’t have; no one’s as quick to run and wash their hands after sneezing. It is not time to get complacent. As someone pointed out recently, the thing that distinguishes this era of history from a zombie movie is that zombie movies generally don’t have large factions of people refusing to believe that something is actually happening.
My kids are eleven and twelve, and they won’t be again. How long can this last? Before “this”, Béla had been at every playground he could get to, and Claudia was going to coffee shops with friends. They walked to the library, sometimes multiple times a week. They were excited about starting to go to their extracurricular activities on their own. They were about to start learning to ride the bus. April was our goal month for Claudia going to and from Music Theater class on her own on a city bus. Instead, her teachers were on Facebook singing “There’s a Place for Us” or some other tearjerker on the night that the performance showcase was supposed to premiere.
Tuck and I worked last year with the aid of a grant that should have culminated this past Saturday in an autistic-artist produced puppet production at a Festival with our friends. Instead, the two of us were able to make a video portrait of a fertility symbol in a time of social distancing; a Green Man whose stamens went untouched.
Whatever is happening to our world, it’s not going to go away with a whimper. It’s not going to be the overhyped weather report that keeps everybody talking all day and turns into nothing but a breeze by evening. I don’t feel “afraid”; not unduly so. I feel sad and helpless; I see so much of the kids’ rage. The places they’ve been told are safe, protected spaces aren’t. They have lost so many moments. They have no idea whether they should expect birthdays in quarantine, if they will lose Halloween.
We don’t know what’s coming; we just know we’re together. We are being extra gentle with each other. I told Claudia a few weeks back that I thought we would come out of this with some really good memories and she said “I already have.”
We’re experiencing one of them right now. I’m gonna go back to it fully.