A Way to Think About This Weird Time Away From Your People
I found inspiration in a sweet note my son found hidden in the park
Yesterday, in an IG comment, my friend Anna tagged me on an Ina Garten post. Ina, that better-than-therapy cook, the fairy godmother of goodness, announced she would be doing Thanksgiving sides, live on the Food Network, Sunday at 12 p.m.
I’ve you’ve read me recently, you know Anna. (If you haven’t, you can get a sense of the love I have for my friend, with whom I am bonded through a shared experience of early death, but many other things too.) I haven’t seen Anna since Easter, and this is a heart breaker, because we barely saw each other then. It occurs to me as I write that we spent many years not going a week, years after that not going a month, and now we are looking at a year. I know that’s you, too. We are all here, missing our dears if we are doing the pandemic right. It is quite painful, to be without your people.
So, Easter. Early pandemic 2020, my husband and toddler and I took a masked car ride to Manhattan for chocolate. My kid, like Anna’s kids, are at the age when something like Easter is a thing. Something kids look forward to. Something powered by make-believe stories (bunnies, bearded men with reindeer, fairies who care about teeth), and these stories—the magic of childhood that gives us magic for life—fall apart without parental follow-through.
So you gotta get the chocolate. I was determined to deliver, for my kid and for hers. Since I’d already had the asshole bug called Covid-19, I felt safer than she did to go into a store, one at a time, masked, everything pre-ordered. We still don’t know what immunity this infection confers, but we know that those of us who had it are probably more at ease at Li-Lac than those who have not.
So I texted that I was in her lobby. She came down, giddy. I put her paper bag of chocolate on the floor and slid it to her across the marble. I probably teared up a little bit. She probably did too, not sure. We had no idea what was coming, how much to make of this moment.
On IG this weekend, my reply was that we should watch it together on the phone like teenagers. Appointment viewing! Cute! Her reply: Let’s do it! Anna hates the phone. Let’s see how this plays out.
This morning, I took my three-year-old son to Prospect Park. It was just the two of us. Normally, when we take my son to the park, someone—my husband or me—will direct the walk. No, no, no, this way. Yes, yes, that way. Turn left (he doesn’t know what left is). Turn right (he doesn’t know what right is). Today, I let him to drive. At every intersection—and intersections are many in this park—I said, Which way?
He got to choose. Kids love this!
Something weird happened. He walked me through my favorite parts of the park, all the way to the top (he hates stairs!), to the secret bench that makes me feel at home. It was turn-for-turn, and I said nothing. He led us to this spot. This was beautiful. BUT! The most interesting thing happened when he directed us (“Throw the scooter down the mountain!”) into the teepee glen. There are three of them, teepees in the glen. These are built by visitors who wield tall sticks, and they angle them together to a pointed top, forming a shelter of sorts.
We explored them all. Mommy, can I go in there? In one of them, we found a red Dixie cup (my initial reaction was LOL drinking happened here). But inside it he found a note. Take out the note, Ronan. Let’s look. The note is my image above. Take care of your tribe.
When I was chatting with her today (the call happened!), while watching this, I sent her the photo I took. We had been talking about how hard this is. How we worry we are losing friends for life. How we worry we are alienating people with our inability (and, fuck it, unwillingness) to be authentic on Zoom.
But we’re not, though. We are all struggling. The beauty comes when we can name it. The beauty comes when we can follow our son to the top of the park, because we know he knows what is good, and will lead us there. The beauty comes when we get on the phone.
We may need to slide packages along the floor, take cues from our kids, don’t know. Some days you simply cannot stick the perfect landing. Your people know this. And they miss you, too.