There are e-mails that hurt more than others. Cleaning my inbox today (a task that had been waiting for a pandemic to be tackled), I have found the first email mentioning Covid-19 from one of the universities where I teach. It is dated January 24th. Back then, that e-mail was an afterthought. An “I am so glad that the university is taking care of the students who are abroad, and of our international students”. A far removed reminder of an article I had read in some paper. Just that.
Who would have thought, on January 24th, as I was giving birth to my fourth child, that the subject of that email would change the world, the entire world (pause to absorb the enormity of that) for good?
Then, that e-mail didn’t hurt.
Neither did the dozens that I received afterwards, not even the ones saying that the schools were closing for two weeks.
Because when I received them, I still was naive enough, or high enough on postpartum hormones, to believe that it would be just those two weeks.
A few weeks later, when it was already obvious that even two months wouldn’t do, and that we will be lucky if it doesn’t turn out to be two years, I received the email cancelling AYSO, the little league my two middle children play at. It is run by volunteers, who will show up in the inclement November of Chicago to coach a team of players as unprofessional and rambunctious as a team of little kids, the goat kind, would be. Them closing shop for the season broke my heart in a way that the Chicago Fire City Junior cancelling theirs didn’t. Maybe because one is a big and fancy sports machine, and the other one is run with all those volunteers hearts. Suddenly, and although they hadn’t played since the Fall, our Saturdays felt sadly empty.
Weeks have kept going by, and we are getting used to this new normal of staying home, of no parks and no museums, of no tacos in the patio, of no trips on the horizon. We have fallen accustomed to the routine, to this life we have reinvented, commiserating with others who have had to reinvent their lives too.
Today I received another punch in the gut e-mail. They are so unexpected. This one came from my middle kids’ school. Our school, OLMCA. The one our family has been part of for the last ten years. It announces the time slots for our kids to drop off their books and sports uniforms, and for us to pick up report cards. Staggered. Carefully organized. Six feet apart. Wearing masks.
And although I knew that there would be no more school this year, and I honestly cannot conceive how it will resume in August, this e-mail hurt too. Because instead of the busy, insane, excited last day of school, with everyone rushing out of the doors and towards Tescler Playground, water guns and balloons in hand for the “yearly end of school picnic and epic water battle”, we will wave at each other from opposite sides of a parking lot, with no kids on tow. And there is something intensely sad about that.
I know that this is not the end of the world. But in a way it is, at least of the world as we know it. And even if school resumes, I wonder when picnics, and water battles, and recess, and playdates, and trips, and grandparents, and normalcy will. It may be a while. And that while is starting to feel long, in a way that no amount of Jeni’s Ice Cream will help cope with.
Regardless, I will register my kids for Fall soccer, and for Fall school, and for Fall everything, because it is always better to hope in order to keep going.
I am sure that we all have had our own “punch in the gut” emails. And that is true of the lucky ones, because many have had “punch in the heart” phone calls, and those have no way to be reversed, what those people have lost won’t come back in two weeks, two months, two years.
But the rest of us need to keep trying to put one foot in front of the other, and supporting those who can’t even think of walking right now. And some days will keep being worse than others, and today I may be down, but tomorrow a photo session, the sun parting the clouds, the smile of a newborn and some paella will make me be “up”. And when they do, it will be my turn to be my usual cheerful self, and cheer on those around me.
By now I am not sure what my point was when I started writing this post. Maybe it was just this, rambling a little bit without purpose, because I need to hear that others are rambling too.
Commiseration. Sympathy. Company. Kindness. That much I can offer. And if we all do, the next two months, whatever they look like, will be better.
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