Remembering life with my family in the before-times

Like memories in a snow globe

Playing at the park in the before-times

I’ve started to regard memories of my family’s day-to-day life from the before-times as distant and precious objects. To wit: I am holding a glass globe up to the light; in it, I see my daughter, Ali. It’s morning in Brooklyn, where we live, and she’s running onto the bus, calling, “You, too!,” over her shoulder, which is adorned with a My Little Pony backpack. I’ve just told her I love her and to have a good day. “Don’t forget my smoothie!”, she chirps, and then she gets on the bus, and she’s gone.

Eight hours later, when she disembarks, I greet her and slowly we make our way into our apartment building. I gulp up her her effervescent description of whatever was just happening on the bus, and she twirls up the stairs, drops her bag, takes off her shoes, washes her hands, and within minutes is ensconced blissfully on the couch, watching videos. Maybe she stops on the way to greet my husband, who is working from his home office, and/or to give kisses and cooing to Clover, our dog.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, I pour a glass of her favorite smoothie: Raspberry banana, with chocolate chips sprinkled on top. I serve it with a straw and a spoon. “Thanks, mom,” she says, as she slides from the couch to the floor to sip from it where it sits on the coffee table, which is covered in scuff marks and has furniture guards on 3 of its 4 corners, which we installed after she hit her head on 1 of the corners and required 12 stitches to the forehead, 2 of which dissolved, so that only 10 stitches needed to be removed (a detail she recounts when she tells the story many years later). The 4th guard always falls off because I rest my foot on that corner of the table (I can’t help it), or Ali fiddles with it (she can’t help it) and Jordan (my husband) gets annoyed, and asks us to leave the furniture guard in place.

After a while I hear slurping sounds. Ali is nearing the bottom of the glass, and then she begins scooping, with the spoon I’ve provided, the chocolate chips that have sunk to the bottom. The paper towel underneath the glass becomes mauve from the drippings. Soon she’ll start making her way through other snacks from the pantry: A bag of pretzels, or popcorn; a chocolate chip granola bar. If Jordan or I are around: Slices of apple, maybe some grapes.

At 5:00 she and Jordan walk Clover, and go to the playground, where she befriends a new group of kids every day, it seems, especially on the tire swing, which Jordan pushes, and which puts her, immediately, into a state of bliss. This tire swing is her JAM. On the way home from the park she climbs on the scaffolding that is inevitably on the sidewalk in front of at least one building, even though we ask her not to, and on the black iron gates in front of brownstones and businesses, and on stoops, and on the wooden coverings that everyone in our neighborhood erects around their trash cans and recycling bins.

…Or so I imagine, because I am home, in my red chair by the window in our bedroom, writing. The pink bouquet of dried flowers isn’t there on the credenza beside the chair, though, because I bought that bouquet just as the pandemic was starting, because I had read a book about cultivating joy and had been buying myself hot pink roses, but I didn’t want to buy flowers from the store anymore, and I thought the dried flowers would be a cheerful substitute. But the bouquet couldn’t be there, because then Jordan and Ali wouldn’t have gone to the playground, and now the glass ball is slipping away from my hand and the memory is over.

Now we are back in the times where trips to the playground are dangerous— where if you make the trip (if you are, say, in Maine, at this point, and no longer in Brooklyn, aka “the epicenter,” where playgrounds are officially closed), you arm yourself with plenty of hand sanitizer, and you wear face masks, and you remind your daughter over and over again never to touch her face after she touches the equipment. And when a little boy toddles over to where she is drawing in the dirt, she runs away as though he’s a bee about to sting her: “Little kid! Little kid!”

In Maine, you have socially distant cocktails with your parents: them on their front porch, you on folding chairs at the end of their driveway, and it’s the first time you’ve seen them since… February? And at first, you think, “This is nice. I know we can’t touch, but I can feel their proximity. It’s better than a Zoom call” —because honestly, at this point, anything is better than a Zoom call. Fuck Zoom calls.

But then later that night, when you and Jordan and Ali are eating dinner back at the house you are renting up the hill, you are listing things that you miss about New York. You say “pizza.” She says “people.” And a great sadness washes over you. And suddenly, socially-distant cocktails with the people who raised you doesn’t feel cool, it feels cold. It feels creepy, like you are suddenly in an episode of the Twilight Zone. You are filled with a fear: What if we begin to forget each other? What if this starts to feel normal?

What will it be like when we can be close to each other again?

And it is then that you realize that your daughter hasn’t asked you for her favorite smoothie since all of this began. And you want to weep. But you tuck yourself into bed, early, and remind yourself something you’ve learned these past months, which is that no feeling lasts; they’re all fleeting. And the next morning, when the sun shines on your face and forms a patch on the back deck where your dog basks joyfully, you feel it that much more, because you know: it isn’t forever.

I’m a writer and story coach/consultant on a mission to fill the world with women’s stories.

Writer and mother. On a mission to fill the world with stories that tell the truth about women—and with women who tell their stories.

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