Confessions of a Pandemic Risk-Taker
Well, not THAT risky. But riskier than I’ll admit on social media.
Remember the early days of the pandemic here in the United States? It was terrifying, sure, even if you weren’t in the hardest-hit areas of New York or Seattle. But there was also a sense of purpose in the early-going, a sense that this was something we could maybe get through together. This was before Liberate Michigan and idiots seeing a mask as an infringement of their personal liberty. This was back in the days of Flatten the Curve, and ringing bells and shouting out the window for health care workers, and We Are All In This Together. I don’t hear much of that anymore. We’re all too divided, too tired, too beaten-down by this pandemic to be inspired by our reactions to it anymore. Now it’s all about mask-shaming and scolding and defiance. That was probably all inevitable, but still: I miss the time when we at least pretended this was something we could overcome if we just stayed inside and tried to take care of one another. But, alas: The pandemic has gone on too long for that, and we are a too-impatient people.
I think, all told, if I were a single version of me sitting in an apartment by myself, I would have been perfectly content, if not necessarily satisfied, to stay indoors and do nothing for eight months. I would have finally got caught up on all those TV shows I never got around to watching, might have at last gotten to work on that book I’d been putting off working on, maybe had regular Zoom cocktails with old friends. I’d have been good at it. My whole generation would be good at it. Though I’m sure I’m kidding myself. It’d just be hard in a whole different way.
The situation here is: I have a family, including two small children, a nine-year-old boy and a six-year-old boy. It occurred to me, probably around May or so, as I watched them struggle with the oxymoron that is elementary school “virtual learning,” that while we were inside waiting for the pandemic to be over, time outside of our house was continuing to tick by. What was a difficult, but temporary, disruption in our lives was starting to grow into a significant part of my boys’ childhood. Children are constantly changing, and my wife and I began to notice the pandemic itself changing them. They were becoming more cautious, less…