Today our youngest granddaughter, Ava, celebrates her first birthday, and we’ll sing to her as a family over WhatsApp. None of us have seen her in person for more than ten months, because Ava and her mom have been in New Zealand since the island nation closed its borders last winter. I’m grateful that they’re in what is literally the safest country on earth right now, and that we can connect with video technology. And on these special days I keenly feel the ache of separation.
Who are you missing as the holidays approach, as the pandemic stretches on past any point we could have imagined at the start (or even now after months of waiting, washing, and wearing)? We are coping/ not coping. We’re learning how to do zoom weddings and memorials, graduations, masked medical treatments and justice protests, online classes, and virtual choirs. As citizens we excelled at early voting, even as we wonder what it means that nearly half of all voters cast their ballots for a racist, populist, oligarch (how do those last two things even go together?!) who regularly threatens to lock up political opponents and journalists. Who knew that the virus would push all of us into exposing our truest colors? We’re figuring it out, but can our democracy survive covid-19? And as a nation, will we ever do what needs to be done so that Black lives truly matter?
At some point the virus will run its course, or a vaccine will quell its reach. We will begin to rebuild our economy, our institutions, our relationships between people and countries. We will meet again in person, hold hands with the dying and cradle those newly born without so many protective layers between us. We will make vacation plans without checking our destination’s infectious rate. Our kids will make up the lessons lost to zoom fatigue—they will learn grammar and complicated math, and we will discover that some other things might matter much more. For instance, do they really know history? Do they understand how oppression works, and what it means to dismantle it? And do they have the necessary tools and courage? Do we?
Until then we’ll be online, doing the best we can even as impossible days stretch into weeks and months. We will continue to mourn losses large and small, and celebrate milestones with reinvented rituals. We might even invent a new holiday, National Kindness Day. Or we might just decide that practicing kindness every day is the surest GPS we could ever hope to have, one that leads us unfailingly to our core, our center, our heart, where we might rest in the sacred and be filled with a longing for justice.