It feels like a lifetime ago that our little family of four travelled to the ocean for a vacation, one of those family trips that, upon recollection, imprinted countless golden moments on my psyche. My girls were just 8 and 4 at the time, and my husband and I had packed up the coolers, wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen, beach umbrellas, far too many clothes, and even the family dog as we set off on a 12-hour drive armed with a determination to create fun, no matter what.
A family vacation creates memories of simpler times
After hitting the road three hours later than planned, the chaos of it all felt heavy and a bit overwhelming, but in retrospect, those few days of madness still stand as some of the happiest moments in memory.
In random flashes, little snippets from that trip pop to mind, and until today, those memories never failed to make me smile. Today, the memory that came knocking unbidden was of those little girls squealing with delight at the feel of the sand underneath their feet. They reveled in the off-balance feeling of the water rolling on the sand beneath their toes, and they giggled as they tried to grab onto it with little feet that just weren’t used to the ground beneath them swirling, demanding they fight to maintain balance. It was a fun, silly feeling for them, and as parents, it was joyous to watch.
But today, my subconscious woke me with that memory, and it tore my heart in two. Because today, well, today just is sad and scary, and nothing seems to be playing by the rules. It’s much harder to find that balance, and instead of grabbing hands amid squeals of laughter we are grabbing each other and holding on as the sand knocks us off our feet. The fall to the ground feels harsher, and my mom’s heart simply wants to bestow a kiss to make it all better.
My girls are allowed to feel a loss
Our home feels a bit hollow, as we each feel uncertainty in the air, punctuated by fear for those we know and love who fall into the “at-risk” category for this virus. How I wish we could simply hold onto the sand this time.
You see, those girls are now 22 and 18, each a member of the Class of 2020, one in college and the other in high school, and a time in their lives that should be filled with “lasts” is now filled with “should have beens.” Make no mistake: all of us realize that missing the traditional rites of passage for senior year pales in comparison to the costs paid by countless others around the world, from those who contract the disease to the healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the battle. My girls get that, truly. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to feel sad.
Both are currently working from home at makeshift school desks, attempting to attend classes remotely. With each day bringing new and alarming information about the pandemic, it seems more and more likely the “lasts” are over.
Last year’s prom was it. Last year’s spring musical was it. February’s youth symphony performance was it. Last semester’s college play was it. The years spent researching, writing, and preparing to present to a crowd for her Capstone project? Fizzled out to a requirement for a paper submission only. College graduation ceremony? Cancelled.
Today, a dorm room sits unoccupied yet still decorated with carefully selected pictures, posters, pillows, and futon; the clothes, comforter, rugs, and school supplies all remain exactly where they sat the day she was required to evacuate. There it all will remain until the quarantine is lifted and we can return to pack it up, along with the dreams of final moments spent with friends, champagne toasts with those she’s lived alongside for four years, and wishes for a final bow on the stage that became her home on campus.
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Mary-Theresa Watson is mom to two daughters and two puppies—because even the senior dog is a puppy!—who writes for herself, her children, and occasionally a dentist or two through her dental-PR business. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for 32 years, and along with their girls, they’ve had more fun than seems fair. She attempts to look on the bright side of life, with a tiny dash of sass every now and then.