When I last wrote about Idara we were only ten days into lockdown. As a family, we’d already started to say goodbye: Goodbye to her school, goodbye to my teaching in person, goodbye to Rachael driving into work. Except without any actual goodbyes. One day these things were a part of our life and the next day they weren’t.
Looking back, I want to imagine that we were sad, but the truth is that we couldn’t comprehend what we were losing, and in some ways, we still can’t.
Snow fell on the first day of lockdown, and Idara and I made a snowman in the backyard. Three days later Idara and I started climbing trees, and a few days after that we made asparagus pizza. Back then the playgrounds were still open and so each afternoon we walked down to the park and whiled away an hour or two on the swings and slide and merry-go-round. Still mindful of the world around us, we carried hand sanitizer and sprayed down our hands before we walked home.
When we set up a video call with one of Idara’s friends from school, it was cute to see them try (and fail) to manage a conversation mediated by a screen. At the time, I didn’t consider that this might be the last time Idara would ever see her.
A few weeks ago the teachers at Idara’s school set up a visiting schedule so that the kids could stop in and say goodbye to their teacher while still social distancing. When Idara and I pulled up Teacher Amanthus was waiting for us on the playground. I tried to keep myself busy while they played with some toys and games that Amanthus had set out. It was sweet, watching them play together, but short, too. Fifteen minutes later it was time to go and so we did.
As we drove away my heart was breaking for Idara. Just when she was starting to open up to the world - to trust adults outside her family, to make friends - that world was closing itself off from her. And the world was not just closed off, but scary. Right when I want to be teaching her how to see herself in others, to feel connected to them, to trust them, we’re having to teach her to be fearful: No hugs, don’t stand too close, wash your hands, wear a mask.
A few days after saying goodbye to Teacher Amanthus, Idara asked when she could go and say goodbye again. This should’ve broken my heart, too, but it didn’t. Wrapping one’s mind around the hurt and suffering connected to this disease requires a level of understanding that she’s just not capable of yet.
I won’t pretend that Idara is unaffected, but in many ways, she’s having the time of her life. She spends every day surrounded by people who care about her doing what she loves:
- Trying all of her dresses and seeing which one twirls the best.
- Acting out the dancing scenes from The King and I and Mary Poppins.
- Painting with her fingers, and feathers, and pinecones.
- Putting her stuffed animals to bed.
- Stealing toys from Oren.
- Camping and visiting cousins.
- Sleeping in a tent in the backyard.
Still, my heart breaks for her. Even if she can’t, I see what else could’ve been. But with a smile on her face she reminds me to look at what’s right in front of me. And to be happy.