I’m sitting at the dining room table surrounded by (virtual) research papers, Yellowstone guidebooks and school supplies. Flip-flops litter the entryway hallway and school papers are strewn about the entire downstairs. Yesterday we had the last day of school cheers as well as the last day of school tears. A pork shoulder is in the slow cooker, corn is waiting to be shucked and watermelon is sitting on the counter waiting to be cut. I hear the low rumble of thunder in the distance, a summer rainstorm breaking the early summer heat. In some ways, it seems just like every other year, but in other ways, it’s unlike any other year of our lives.
For your 10th birthday, you and I flew to Austin, Texas for a mother-daughter trip. Instead of gifts, you wanted to travel somewhere no one in the family had ever been. You wanted it to be warm, eat tacos, and listen to music. So, Austin it was. We devoured brisket at crowded BBQ joints, listened to live music in parking lots (turns out you aren’t 18 yet; so you can’t go into bars), kayaked Lady Bird Lake, searched out street art, gorged on cupcakes and tacos from food trucks, wandered independent bookstores and took a tour of the capitol building.
It was about three weeks before life got shut down.
We are currently on day 77 of a shelter-in-place directive and we are slowly starting to see life tip-toe out from isolation. A pickup baseball game at the local park with all participants wearing masks. More (mask-wearing) shopping at the grocery stores, tennis courts have opened, and I hear rumors of curb-side retail stores opening up. I am equal parts thrilled and terrified, ready to fall into a “new normal,” but not ready to give up the slowness and our little cocoon of the past eleven weeks.
At ten years old, you have taken the dramatic lifestyle changes in stride. You ask questions, wanting to know all you can about coronavirus: how it spreads, what the symptoms are, how many people are sick. You started a new journal, writing down poems in which encapsulated your anxiety about COVID-19, the small scenes of beauty you noticed on our walks and life in isolation with two younger sisters. You jumped right into remote learning, reminding me that education is malleable and so much more than just a classroom. You started baking bread and making homemade pasta and created a United States scrapbooks in which you can draw states and write down capitals and look up interesting destinations (clearly my map indoctrination is working). You are such a delight to be around. You are capable of expressing your thoughts on current events, books, music, and history. You have big ideas and witty comments.
On the flip side of this, you are becoming more acutely aware of the world around us, developing your moral compass and beliefs while cultivating a sense of who you are. As your parent, I want to teach you how to ground your identity and foster your values. I want you to create light and spread kindness. To take in the stresses of the world and use it to harness good. Maya Angelou famously wrote in her autobiographical novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, “Life is going to give you just what you put in it. Put your whole heart in everything you do, and pray, then you can wait.” My wish for you, sweet Daisy-girl, is to infuse your life with both work and play, believe in the fantastic, and do what makes your heart sing.
I love you more than all the stars in the sky and all the water in the ocean.