This past Saturday was my Sami’s birthday. It was a big one- number 13- marking the end of her childhood years, and the beginning of her walk over the bridge to adulthood. We began the day with breakfast with her dad, with the plan to open gifts and have cake later that evening, and schedule a health department-compliant picnic with two of her friends later this week. She expressed not wanting to have a party or a car parade as has become popular during the pandemic, so we honored that request. Saturday ended up being a regular, somewhat boring day. We helped the boys prepare for their upcoming Sierra trek, packing food and running related errands. Meanwhile she watched “New Moon,” one of the Twilight movies. Ironically, the movie begins with protagonist Bella Swan celebrating her birthday with a party that turned disastrous. Not that this was a sign, but by the early evening, after too many unmet expectations, she was in full meltdown mode. Through her tears, she explained that she had wanted to go to out to dinner, but couldn’t decide on what she wanted. She had also really wanted to have a party, but was afraid that she and her friends would spread the coronavirus, even if we followed current health guidelines. She wanted to do something to celebrate the start of her teenage years, but didn’t know what would be allowed or acceptable. She thought that the social distancing restrictions would have ended by now and that she wouldn’t have to give up her birthday.
As my heart broke for her, I understood that she was caught between wanting what used to be before the pandemic and being afraid of it. She wanted to have one our usual parties at home and to get her nails done. She wanted to be able to have friends over to see them in person like she hasn’t done in the past four months. She just wanted to have some semblance of normalcy. I confess, as I celebrated turning 38 the day prior, I wished for the same.
I know there are other more pressing issues surrounding the Covid19 crisis, and maybe a birthday party isn’t something to be so devastated over. But the reality is that life does look different at this time, and sometimes it’s easy to minimize the feelings of sadness and disappointment. Our children are having to quickly adapt to circumstances they don’t necessarily understand. And even the older kids have had to face a level of despondency as proms, promotions, graduations, future plans, and life as they knew it have come to a halt. Both as a parent and as a board member, I have heard students go through stages of grief as they came to terms with the abrupt end of their high school years. I heard in my own son, as he bargained for me to reverse the decision to close the schools, something not in my power to do, but he felt he had to try.
However as it seems to happen in times of crisis, families and communities do come together. The class of 2020, while they had to give up a good chunk of their senior year experience, was able to celebrate their graduation. Our district held a nice virtual ceremony, but even better than Samuel L. Jackson guest speaking for our ceremony (sorry Nick Fury), was the car parade the morning after. It was wonderful to see families lining up in decorated vehicles to celebrate their graduates. Even the pets got to participate. Owen and Penelope were present to watch Jacob walk across the parking lot stage and accept his diploma. In the end, the celebration was more fun than the traditional Pomp and Circumstance. After all, how often do you get to graduate with your pets watching?
Life is indeed different than it was before the arrival of the Covid, but it has continued. Sami was cheered up by the unicorn ice cream cake dad picked up and her new Lego Friends set her Grammy sent. I hope that your celebrations are sweet though they may be different. And I hope for good health and safety as we go through this summer and plan for a new school experience in 2020-2021. Best wishes and happy trails.