It’s been about a year since COVID-19 started making itself felt here. Patient Zero landed in Everett on January 18. It took a while, but by late February we started sensing that this could impact our lives. Assisted living facilities started experiencing the terrible toll first. Soon schools began worrying about COVID cases. On March 4, 2020, I was working from home when Benji’s school called: Someone at the school had tested positive for COVID, and they were sending all the kids home for a few weeks.
Gosh, this blog posting hiatus has lasted a little longer than normal. My initial thought was to recap what I’ve missed writing about in the last month, but honestly, in a way it’s been very little — much of the same, day in and day out. Work from home, school from home, see my parents in person, go for solo bike rides, watch movies, play games. Instead of a comprehensive review, let’s just skip straight to the highlights reel.
I trashed my parents’ car. Okay, that’s a bit strong, but in the middle of January, Dad and I took his car to go for a hike along a scenic but extremely narrow and windy road called Chuckanut Drive. He asked me to drive on the way home, and I agreed. We often trade off driving on daytrips like that. Not five minutes into the trip home, I misjudged where the passenger side of the car was and sideswiped the cement barrier. Nothing else happened; I kept the car under control and we proceeded home safely. Unfortunately, the brush with the cement barrier had deeply gouged both door panels. We paid the nearly nearly $4,000 to replace both doors. Ouch. Fortunately we’re good for it, but that’s certainly not how we intended to spend that money.
Before COVID times, we got together with a group of friends every month to watch a movie, share snacks, and just chat and connect.
Of course, pandemic restrictions have completely shut that down. We initially couldn’t figure out how to get together with people, and we put movie nights on hold along with nearly everything else. But at Christmas, we always watch A Muppet Christmas Carol on our movie night. It’s usually such a joyful evening, with kids joining us as we watch this excellent and familiar movie, sing along, even quote along.
This year has taught me to expect very little. If it snows, expect a snowball thrown at the window to break the glass.
Even before the pandemic, I’d already accepted that I’m not that person who’s ready with a huge stack of Christmas cards, crispy sprinkle-covered cookies, seasonal decorations, or beautifully wrapped gifts. I’d describe myself as a functional Christmas person. I don’t send cards; I don’t bake cookies; I decorate minimally; and I wrap gifts, but never beautifully. We celebrate Christmas to commemorate the birth of Christ, and that doesn’t need a bunch of extra trappings. Which is good, because trappings aren’t happening.
Yesterday morning I woke up to something astonishing: A different view.
Benji, my parents, and I have relocated to a house on Lopez Island for five days. Before we left, I felt extremely reluctant about the trip. Just the prospect of all the logistics overwhelmed me. But I came around to going for at least a few days, and so on Wednesday morning Benji and I embarked.
Our travel included just enough excitement to keep things interesting. We initially planned to catch the 10:20 sailing to Lopez, but arrived just in time to catch the 9:25 sailing. Surprise! And on the crossing, we witnessed something entirely new to me: emergency drills for the crew. They responded to a simulated car fire and to an abandon ship alarm. I’ve ridden ferries for my entire life and never witnessed that before. It was fascinating!
Imagine that you agreed, more than a month ago, to play a game that involved taping three large balloons to your back and running around trying to snatch balloons from other people while preventing yours from being snatched. (If this sounds like Mario Kart Balloon Battle, you’re right. Our child independently invented a live version of it.) Your child has keenly anticipated this event, scheduling it with participating family members and counting down the days until this thrilling activity occurs.
I started to write, “It’s hard to believe, but we’ve done second grade remotely for four months already.” To be honest, though, I can hardly believe that only four months have passed. It feels more like a year.
We have all the advantages that should make remote schooling a success: A space and device dedicated to our child’s school, two work-from-home parents, an excellent internet connection, a devoted and engaged teacher, and a child who adapts to technology easily.
Despite all these advantages, remote schooling feels like a slow slide to failure. I don’t know if it’s his personality, his age, the situation, or some combination, but tracking and completing all his work eludes our child. He drops off Zoom calls early, loses physical papers, and avoids asynchronous work. He wants to play with his toys or with us, and “finishes” assignments with the minimal amount of work, not trying his best, just minimally touching it so he can say he’s done and can move on.