This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
On March 10th, it was cold and sunny, which is about the best we can hope for in Seattle in the late winter. It was track-meet cold, the kind of weather when you make plans to be outside because you have to after a winter of peering through rain-streaked windows at the dimpled tops of puddles, but when you get out you remember it’s still not spring, and you should have worn a warmer coat and a hat. It was the kind of cold and sunny day when you see your neighbors for the first time in a while, and you smile cheerfully, tentatively, familiarly, recognizing in their faces the cold and the relief at seeing the sky again.
On March 10th, we went to a city park with friends. I sat on a bench, one eye on each little girl, and talked about parenting and books with my friend, while our kids played on colorful playground equipment and ran around a maze of large rocks. They squealed, chased and pretended. They whispered in each other’s ears and told us moms to go away. There were lots of kids and parents around, and I only knew a few of them. It didn’t feel strange.
On March 10th, I went out for pie. To be honest, I’d gone out for pie the day before, too, though daily pie wasn’t then—nor is it now—my habit. But the park was next to the pie shop, so we stopped for wedges of French apple and chocolate mousse on the way home, chatting with the pie seller and lingering in the fleeting warmth of the little shop.
On March 10th, we knew something was wrong. We didn’t know how wrong—not yet—but we suspected that changes lurked around the corner, next week or next month. Maybe schools would shut down or maybe (but hopefully not) playgrounds would close, too.
With other disasters, we ask each other Where were you when? It’s a fitting question for something that takes up a moment, some several hours of adrenaline-packed disaster. If it’s not happening where you live, you’ll remember at least how you heard, what you did to process the news. With this, the ongoing and global catastrophe of COVID-19, we ask a different question. What was your last normal day? Mine was March 10th, a day that included really just pie and a playdate. The day that ended without fanfare, with a see you soon that ultimately proved false.
This March 10th, it’s sunny and cold again. It’s been a sunnier March than I’m used to, and I’m grateful. I play outside with my kids, just us as it’s been for the last twelve months. We’ve had a few tentative playdates, and I’ve spent lots of time sanitizing hands and pulling masks over noses. We reclaimed the nearest playground eventually, though mostly we’ve operated under a one-family-at-a-time system. But mostly, we’ve been here, in this little wilderness of a yard, watching the seasons rotate from spring to summer to smoke to autumn to winter. We find two crocuses and a handful of blooming daffodils. It’s coming again, spring.
With my husband working from home, I drive to Costco in the afternoon and note with a sinking feeling that it’s busy. Other than my own house, Costco is one of the only buildings that I enter for any length of time now, and I’m not thrilled with the crowd. But I’m already here, and by most metrics our county is… OK? That’s how it often is these days, it seems. Never confident with a statement, I answer questions about risk with more questions. OK? Fine? Maybe looking better? We’re hopeful, but cautious. I pull out my best mask and fortify it with an extra filter, thinking how strange this list of considerations would look to a past version of myself.
Later, I pass a high school football game, and my eyes linger on the familiar sight. I know that if I was up close there wouldn’t be many fans, and they’d all be wearing masks, as would be the players themselves under their helmets. And it’s March, after all. Hardly football season. But the sheer normalcy of it, the mixed unease of risk and sorrow for all that’s been lost, brings tears to my eyes. It’s been a year.
A friend of mine recently made a video chronicling this year in the life of his young family. As he is a videographer by trade, the film itself is stunning, an emotional and intimate window into their lives, so similar to mine though they live far away. It’s called “What We Learned.”
And I love this, the reflection what they learned in this strange year. It feels healthy and hopeful, a reminder to gratitude that I can always use. It also feels more final, more tied-up than I do yet. I’m not ready for past tense yet; this denoument is just beginning.
All I can do, for now, is marvel at the new things I know and think and worry about, or the way that a community or a nation can feel so united one moment and so torn at the next. All I can do is be grateful for the vaccinations that have begun to protect us, both the people I love most and many, many others. All I can do is remember how it was that last normal day, and see how it is now, this new normal one. I can hold those two days, that one and this, and try to be glad in them.