Moments of Joy
“Mommy, look! I found flowers, just for you,” my six year old says, proudly showing me a small collection he’s picked from our front yard.
We’re in the early days of the pandemic, and everything feels unsure and unstable. School has been cancelled for the next few weeks and we’ve been told to stay home. As we adjust to this sudden new way of life, getting my children outside for a morning walk has become a lifeline: a break from scrolling the endless breaking news notifications and wondering what exactly this pandemic has in store for us—surely, it’ll be under control by summer, right?
I finish wrestling my toddler into the stroller and turn to inspect the flowers, surprised by the tears in my eyes. “Oh, buddy, these are beautiful! I love them, thank you!” He hands me the tiny bouquet and I tuck it in the stroller organizer, yellow petals peeking out next to my keys and phone.
A rainy afternoon stretches out in front of us. The couch cushions have been removed from the couch to make a fort and I’m invited in. I ask my kids to grab some books: story time in the fort! We are weeks into the pandemic and our selection of library books has grown stale. The initial adrenaline rush has faded, we’re settling into the stay at home life. It’s becoming clear that we are in this for the long haul, that we have no idea when “normal” will resume.
”I want new library books,” whines my kindergartner. ”We’ve already read all of these.”
He’s right. I glance around the room for inspiration, my eyes landing on the bookshelf. I pick up a book, bring it over to the fort.
“This was one of my very favorite books when I was your age. It’s called Little House on the Prairie. Would you like me to read you this one?”
He nods eagerly, and I open the book, excited to share a childhood favorite.
Months later, we’ve made it to The Long Winter. Sometimes, I catch myself pausing while I read so I can scan ahead, eager to remember the details of a familiar story. Reuniting with these words feels like reuniting with a long lost friend.
“Why don’t you get out for a few hours? I’m done with work early and can handle the kids until dinner time.” My husband barely gets the words out of his mouth before I’m off, running to grab my keys and bag before anything can derail this unexpected gift: a precious few hours alone on a beautiful fall afternoon.
I turn the key in my minivan, simultaneously trying to decide where to go and calculate how long it’s been since I’ve had an afternoon to go out alone; no errands, no plans, no agenda. It’s the end of September and I’ve been with my kids almost constantly since mid-March. I don’t want to waste this time driving aimlessly; frantically, I try to decide what to do when a nearby walk-up coffee shop pops into mind.
I order a pumpkin spice latte and settle myself at an outdoor table. Pulling my book out of my bag, I relish the feel of the sun on my face, the fact that no one is fighting over who is sitting in my lap, the freedom in several unexpected hours to spend any way I want.
“I just need a change of scenery,” I tell my husband. “We’ve been home for so long.”
Later, he texts me a link to a beach house rental. I take a look, text him back another one. We make a reservation, and I hold back my excitement until we have set foot in the house. This is 2020; anything could happen.
The weather is perfect. The house has a pool and a deck with an ocean view and Adirondack rocking chairs. I tiptoe out in the early morning to watch the sun rise. I let my first grader swim before virtual school. I watch my children build sandcastles and toss the football, chase each other in the sand, squealing when the waves crash at their feet. I don’t pay attention to the news or lament the difficulties of virtual school.
I enjoy the moment. I watch the sunset paint the sky brilliant colors. I savor the taste of coconut almond chip ice cream eaten by moonlight in a parking lot. I run barefoot to the beach to try and capture the sunrise. I scribble words onto paper and flip the pages of a book by the pool. I stand in the sand, feeling the cool ocean breeze while the water rushes over my feet.
Moments of joy, in the middle of a hard year. Unexpected, unpredictable, beautiful.