Skipping Toward Bethlehem
OK, so the apocalypse is here, or it feels like it at least. Weird times for sure, but something very human about it all. We're definitely reminded that civilization and society are on a razor-thin edge on which everything sits and on one side of that edge, we use these reminders to act, to reflect, to be good to our neighbors - singing from balconies and making sure kids have access to food...
Or we can make sure we have enough toilet paper to wipe our asses for years and buy $17k of hand sanitizer to extort people over. Which leads me to wonder - Has there been a run on bread and milk?
This last six months has definitely been apocalyptic and Yeatsian. I know that's not a word, but Ellie asked me today if it were OK for her to invent a word and I said absolutely, so I'm taking my own advice here. The Second Coming feels so right-now you'll be looking out your window for the sphinx. Here are the first few lines...
Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
And skipping along...
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I know things things aren't that apocalyptic, but for me the last six months have just had that feel. My dad passed away at the beginning of November after a pretty rough October, and then winter in the mountains was never more than just an angry fall. And now that it's spring it feels like a blizzard hit except that I can go outside with the kids and trees have their beautiful blossoms weeks early.
Coronavirus feels to me the opposite of playing the Powerball. I buy a ticket when it's over $100 million, and I don't expect to win. I won't win, but I have that sliver of hope. Somebody does. On the opposite side, I don't expect to die from this, but I could. I think that I might not be looking at "I could" deeply enough. I have wondered about hurricane victims who have died, especially after Katrina. They watched the same news I did. They saw the hurricane coming and their death was written in its clouds of rain and wind. One day it will be me the hurricane or the illness is coming for, but today I don't feel like that. I feel happy.
I'm looking forward to this apocalypse. I'm not saying I'm glad this disease is hitting people, and I have plenty of oldsters in my life to worry about, and it's no guarantee it wouldn't be serious for my wife and kids. But I am looking forward to this extra time with my family. I'm looking forward to walks in our neighbyhood as Sam calls it. I'm looking forward to tee-ball in the backyard, baking cupcakes, and building pillow forts. All of this while juggling my own work teaching my 11th and 12th graders from home. It's like I'm a home school teacher without being someone who either wants to protect their kids from sinners or those who would dare to vaccinate their children.
My wife worries about the effect on the kids, and well she should as a great mom and counselor. But I think it's good for them because this kind of hardship will build character, and honestly I don't feel any hardship yet. Well, except for no baseball, but I digress. For me this isn't that bad...yet. But I don't know what will happen and I think I'm cool with that in the same way I'm cool with not knowing why the universe exists or what happens when we die.
So today began with Sam and Ellie taking every cushion off the couch and building a nest-like pillow fort in the middle of the living room floor. Then, they agreed on a movie to watch together. Two improbable things - getting along, and wanting the same movie. Great, I thought. I'll get to drink some coffee and read the Sunday New York Times.
The kids proved Yeats to be a prophet. The center could not hold. Things fell apart, well, Sam kicked them apart, and before long the two were like leaders of enemy countries and I had to snap into action or the day would get out of hand. I took half the cushions to a bedroom and left the others on the couch. Ellie staked claim to the bedroom territory with at least three signs instructing Sam to keep out.
Unfortunately, he can't read.
Over the next hour the two somehow made a tenuous truce and developed a complex mail delivery system with one hand-made mailbox by Ellie and a Paw Patrol shoebox for Sam. They even developed streets with names like Fishland Road and Everyland Avenue. At least they were using their imaginations.
This seemed to settle them, and I was able to go back to my cold coffee and half-read newspaper. I became the mailman and the judge, delivering their letters and settling their disputes and before long, both were making visits to each other's houses. But like all things, just when I think I've found the solution, another skirmish breaks and I have to find a peace.
Up next was the disco inferno. Ellie wanted a mirrorball on YouTube and some disco music. They were happy with this for a minute and a half. Then Sam wanted Peaches by Presidents of the United States of America and Ellie wanted something else because the mirrorball and music turned out to be a big disappointment to her. I gave Sam what he wanted and Ellie seemed cool with it because Sam is pretty cute when he belts out "Peaches come from a can!" and they both like to fight me when the ninjas inexplicably enter at the end of the music video.
One good song leads to disagreement over what should come next, so I turned off the TV and we sat at the table making peace. This peace was picking up boxes from Lowe's and making the greatest box fort they had ever seen.
This strategy gave me an hour. I spent half an hour connecting the boxes and cutting doors and windows while making a noticeably (to me at least) phallic box fort. After that, they played peacefully for a half-hour or so while I finished a book.
So that's day one in a nutshell. This could be a nightmare. I could end this pandemic in a body bag from a stroke after breaking up the fights, playing Zingo and Googly Eyes, watching Zootopia for the thousandth time, and being on call for two very-demanding humans from wake up to bedtime. I look at this as an improvement, though, on my day-to-day. First, it's my kids making these demands and not my students, and second, I sometimes get so tired of the days being the same smashing into weeks which are the same, and what greater adventure than surviving and thriving during a pandemic?
This can be a good thing for all of us if we love those we live with, find ways to care for those around us, and shame those who would capitalize on loss. We're so used to having what we want, when we want, but this is a great opportunity to sacrifice for the good of each other and watch the great beast skipping toward Bethlehem with a smile.