Still Here


Here we are, at the end of another month. My birthday (and maybe yours, too) has come and gone in this strange time of social distancing and sheltering-in-place. It was a lovely one despite the limitations on what actually could be done to celebrate. I received some beautiful phone calls and video chats from beloved friends and family, and one friend even sent me a Disney World firework show. It was a lovely birthday altogether. “Fancy” take-out dinner, cake, and a $0.99 movie with my little family.

Doesn’t it feel odd, what we have learned to live with over the past month or so? The adjustments and adaptations we have made in order to live life in this new normal? The very way we interact as human beings has changed, and we have come to cling to those changes as, in most cases, they are all that we can do.

Tuesday was THE day. Grocery Day! All three of us happened to be out that morning, a deviation from our normal routine as one of the cars has to be taken in for servicing. So, donned in our new sweetly-made masks, mine covered in its lovely book pattern (fitting, no?), we ventured into the grocery store, my husband and daughter heading off to the electronics and toy section while I scurried about the grocery and pharmacy aisles with my list. As I moved about, I found myself in an absolute fit of irritation that people were clustering close together and whatnot in the aisles and walkways when I was studiously trying to avoid it. Granted, as an introvert, I tend to studiously avoid people in the grocery store as a matter of practice, but this irritation felt far more urgent, more worrisome. It is this worrisome urgency that sent me scurrying off as though I were actively running away from people. However, at the same time, I have come to accept that worried irritation as a part of my mental process through all this. Especially when I see more and more people chaffing at the restrictions and states beginning to re-open and allow the distance between people to lessen or even close. I am not okay with this, and I am unsure as to how others can be.

Do I miss my students? Yes. Do I miss being able to go out when I feel the want or need? Yes. Do I wish my daughter could socialize and play with her friends and other children? Yes. But I am not prepared to believe that this is over yet. I am not prepared to put my family and those of others at risk by throwing our caution and adjustments away. I am not, and I am urgently irritated at people who are.

Where is your sense of community protection or (at least) self-preservation, people? Do I understand the need to work and for income? Absolutely. But I also acknowledge that we still do not know enough about this virus, its staying power, resurgence, etc. I am not prepared to take that chance, not yet.

Is it hard to be home all the time? Absolutely. Is my daughter driving me nuts? Undoubtedly. Do we struggle to find and share space in our little home? All the time (but especially when my daughter refuses to go upstairs to the two rooms that are all hers and leave me to the peace of the living room). But, above all other things, WE ARE STILL HERE. We are still together. We are still here. And so are you.

We are still here, Dear Ones. Doing what we can. Separate but together. Even as things might begin to change again, let’s continue to stay here and do what we can, for the good of ourselves and others.

The Missing Matters


On Thursday, our state superintendent of education announced that schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year. There are other things that go along with that, of course, such as distance learning, plans, etc. But the big takeaway is that now students will not return to the school buildings OFFICIALLY. This is an abrupt and jarring ending for our kids. This is not the way the school year is supposed to go. Speaking as a parents and a teacher, while it is for the best and is the safest course of action, it feels like nothing less than the yanking away of hope.

Hope of being able to hug and play with their friends again.
Hope of being able to suit up for their favorite sport.
Hope of being able to sit in their favorite teacher’s classroom again.
Hope of gathering in their friend-groups and being able to hold hands through all of this.
Hope of preparing for their final dances, field trips, competitions, and performances and the year-long work that has led toward those ends.
Hope of birthdays, band practices, pool parties, movie nights.
Hope of being honored for their hard work at the end of the year, being able to stand up proudly and accept awards that they honestly worked their tails off for.

That hope is gone. There really is no other, nicer way to say it. That hope, in its original shape, is gone. And that is painful for our kids.

I was upset yesterday at the announcement, though the why is harder to articulate. I think part of it was the same upset that we all get when we have to deliver bad news, news that we know cannot be softened nor its truth mitigated. That feeling dragged on me and nagged at me all afternoon and evening. My anxiety was torn between curling up and crying the upset out and sitting down to work on ALL THE THINGS for distance learning, just so I had some modicum of control (I am a teacher after all). I felt like I had to do SOMETHING!

Finally, grabbing a quiet moment with both hands, I sat on the couch in my pjs and recorded a quick 1-min video on my phone before slapping it up on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook and emailing it out to my students. I just needed to reassure them, needed to tell them that it’s going to be okay. But, even more than that, I needed to tell them that I am sorry.

I am sorry that we won’t get to finish that book together in person.
I am sorry that I won’t get to hear about how you’re moving to a new town over the summer, hug you goodbye, and tell you how proud I am of you and how much I enjoyed having you in my classroom.
I am sorry that you will not get to dress up for the final dance of the year.
I am sorry that we won’t get to do the Reading Counts party with games, the pool, and pizza.
I am sorry that we won’t get to gush over the new Marvel movies that were slated for early May.
I am sorry that I won’t be there to answer your knock and welcome you in to hide over lunch when you are having a bad day.
I am sorry that we cannot be together. I am sorry that you cannot be together.
I am sorry that you won’t get to play, perform, compete, and display your wonderful talents before everyone one more time this year.
I am sorry that you won’t get to do all those amazing things you had planned this spring.
I am sorry that this is how things have turned out.

It was only a minute or so but I wanted my students, my Heroes, to know that it matters. That their missing this portion of their lives right now matters. The missing matters! And that they are allowed to grieve it. It was important to them, important to their people, and losing those opportunities is significant. Even so, it will be okay.

And that is for you, too, Dear Ones. It will be okay. We will get through this. We will figure this out. And it is absolutely okay to feel disappointed, to grieve, and to cry through all of the getting through it, too. I am sorry, Dear ones. I am sorry for the disappointment, the distress, and the fracturing of hope. It will be okay, yes, but it is also hard. And it’s okay to feel that hard and hold on to hope at the same time. We are complex, we can do both things.

We are here. We are separated but still togther. We are still here. Hope is just taking on a new shape now, and we will learn to recognize it. We have not been deserted. We can still find hope, God, peace, and each other. It will be okay, Dear Ones. We will get there. Hold fast! Yibambe! It’s going to be okay.