The World Keeps Turning
The weather was perfect; an early-spring stretch of seventy degree days with blue skies overhead, the puffy cotton ball clouds in the sky a sharp contrast to the ominous headlines of a new virus making its way around the world. It was a Tuesday afternoon, early in March, when I stood outside the elementary school talking to a few other moms. We were trying to figure out how to break the news to our kindergartners that their much anticipated field trip to the children’s museum was canceled, along with all the other field trips. By Friday, the field trip was the least of our worries; it seemed as though everything, including school, was (or soon would be) closed.
There was a nervous buzz of fearful anticipation in the air; grocery shelves were wiped clean, news conferences were held, everything was being put on hold. We knew change was coming, but exactly how much change?
Two years later, I’d say that everything changed. But I’d also say: some things never change. The sun rises in the east. Summer follows spring. The world keeps turning, even when our lives turn upside down.
The field trip finally happened–almost two years to the day from when the cancellations started. It felt like a full-circle moment. First there was a haphazardly finished kindergarten year, then a year of virtual first grade and homeschool preschool with a tagalong toddler. This year started with a second grader and kindergartener in masks, school precautions in place, a toddler shadow by my side; now the masks are optional, my shadow is in preschool a few days a week, and for the first time in months, the CDC map shows a low risk level in our area.
In a strange sort of echo, my kindergartner is learning the things that were abruptly cut off during my second graders kindergarten year. In the car after school, my kindergartner bubbling over with excitement about the day's events, my second grader will say, “that’s where we stopped,” in a slightly sad, but mostly matter-of-fact, voice. “Our class never got to finish that,” he adds, and my heart breaks all over again for the way such a formative year ended, all the ways our lives so abruptly changed.
We’ll be processing these pandemic experiences for years to come; possibly for the rest of our lives. Last year on this date, I wrote:
It's been quite a year. We're tired of hearing all the words to describe it--unprecedented, unexpected, unpredictable, challenging, anxiety-inducing. And it has been all of those things. But it's also been a year of refining, a year of learning, a year of uncovering what really matters and seeing if who we think we are matches up with the way we act in an extended crisis. It's been a year of letting go of much of what is familiar and trying to establish new rhythms and routines. It's been a year of constant risk analysis and questioning decisions and trying to balance the grief of all that has been lost along with gratitude for the things we have gained.
These words still ring true, a year later. As precautions lift and we are starting to find our way into this next stage, I feel like a caterpillar that crawled into a pandemic cocoon and is starting to emerge. I googled exactly what this process entails, as it’s been a few years since elementary school science, and this is what I read;
While some people think of cocoons as a resting place, there's no resting going on inside the cocoon! To the contrary, there's a lot of activity. Inside the cocoon and the chrysalis, the caterpillar is transforming into a new creature. This requires that the old caterpillar body be broken down and turned into something new.
Yes, exactly! I thought when I read this. We may have been at home, but we weren't resting. My pre-pandemic self seems like a distant shadow, someone I knew once but now only vaguely remember. We'll return to some of our routines of pre-pandemic life, but we will never return to the people we were in the early days of 2020, before the stay-at-home orders were issued and the world shut down.
We are all changed, marked in some way by this experience. How will we emerge?