You may have noticed something has changed with our pack. We’re around more. A lot more.
We’re going on longer walks, and you check your “pee mail” — all those fragrant messages that we humans can’t even see. I’m glad you haven’t sprained your tail from wagging all day.
The reason that we’re all home is something you can’t see or smell. To be honest, we can’t either. But we’ve been reading about it since winter. Remember how water gathers and rises at the lake, and crashes against the shore, scaring you backward? Imagine a wave bigger than our house, rising and crashing over our whole neighborhood. All the neighborhoods. That’s what it feels like.
So keep snuggling with us on the couch, and forgive us for not letting you sniff other humans or dogs right now. Every day is still a brand new day, the best day to be alive and together.
On this spring morning, I’m looking out at the blooming magnolia, and I remember when you were tiny and you wanted to climb into that tree and be surrounded by pink flowers. Now you’re finishing eighth grade and you’re as tall as your mom!
The weird thing is, during this quarantine, you appear to be living your best life. You’re happier, waking up rested after two more hours of sleep every day. You craft a daily schedule, get your schoolwork done and have time to do the things you love: reading, writing, running, hanging with Flash and pushups before bed. You’ve even learned how to bake, blessing us with your sweetness.
I’m sorry about your birthday party and graduation, but I’m grateful to see you becoming yourself. The magnolia tree will lose its blooms in a couple of weeks. Then it’s off to summer leaves.
It goes so fast. That’s why I’m partly grateful for our present slowdown, to be able to behold everything without rushing. With fewer cars, I hear more birds. With nowhere to rush off to, I pay attention, sitting in one place. I can see the gift you are. I can’t remember a more beautiful spring.
Of all of us, you are suffering the most. It’s not simply because you are the shining extrovert among a family of introverts, craving the stimulation of being surrounded by the buzz of people. It’s not simply because your boyfriend got sick and you had COVID toes.
It’s also because you’ve lost the most. You have worked so hard through your four high school years, and got into your dream college in December. You were ready to relish your last semester, a victory lap of hanging out with friends, track meets, camping adventures, prom and commencement. Now all of that has disappeared beneath the invisible tsunami — one by one, drowning.
Some days you beg to do errands, so you can feel the freedom of driving off and leaving your troubles behind. Sometimes you run or go on hikes with friends, coming back smelling like fresh air, the cares washed from your face. But mostly you’re like me, feeling Zoom fatigue from online classes. It’s plainly not fair.
But I’m grateful for every second you’re here with us. I was dreading your departure in the fall, and now I get to bump into you in the house, dispensing doctor-recommended hourly hugs.
When you’re finally off to college, I’ll have these extra hugs to hold onto, to buoy my spirits, when you’re a thousand miles away and I’m feeling the flood inside.
In January, you already knew. Reading stories of Wuhan late at night, you saw the wave gathering, the water rising and began building this ark. By the time it rose, we all had functional cellphones, masks, library books, a gas stove, a pulse oximeter that kept me from having to go to the hospital when I felt like I couldn’t breathe. When all the readings for my new book were canceled, I’d known it was coming. You are our Noah.
I’ve been grateful to take daily walks with you, coming to know our neighborhood and each other in a new way. Twenty-two years into our marriage, I feel something amazing happening as we walk together, opening up some new horizon in us.
In our leaky ark, we may have already weathered the virus. We worry every day about our parents and other vulnerable family members and friends. There has already been so much illness, unemployment, desperation and death. We’ve seen the virus expose the injustices in our society, where billionaire businessmen benefit but refuse to find a way to pay their workers a living wage.
We hold each other close, talk more, reach out more. In our little ark of a home, we hope for a new Ararat, a new beginning. We’re not alone, but we’re not as together as we could be, a whole planet of arks, floating in place, seeking solid ground.