We buy a hammock and string it between two trees in our backyard, our third hammock in five years. My children destroyed the other two playing a game they call “Roller Coaster,” where they wrap someone up in the hammock like a cocoon and try to spin them so fast they won’t fall out. Sometimes, they fall out.
In the late afternoons, or on the weekends, I lie in the hammock squishing the black ants that run across my arms and reading sad books—White Oleander, Before We Were Yours. I watch the red squirrels running up and down the trees, chattering and scolding me. I think about how many more squirrels I’ve seen this year than ever before, and how, if it weren’t for the pandemic, so many of them would be squished under car tires.
One night, I go for a walk just as the sun is setting. It sinks below the horizon without much fanfare, and on a different night, I might not have even noticed. But tonight, I am paying attention—and for the briefest hint of a moment the sky is every muted shade of pink and blue and purple. Somehow, muted colors are the most beautiful to me now.
…tonight, I am paying attention.
Time slows down. It is no longer a river, tumbling and connecting one moment to the next. It is a series of moments that each, themselves, last forever. The connectivity is gone. We read a book, and that is an eternity. We go for a walk, and that is an eternity. We blow dandelions, and that is an eternity.
My 11-year-old breaks his arm. Not playing Roller Coaster, but jumping off the swingset—a jump he’s made, unscathed, literally thousands of times.
“Isn’t it funny how he tried for years to break his arm, and never did?” my nine-year-old asks. “And when he finally broke it, it was in the middle of a global pandemic?!”
This is all true: my 11-year-old son, ever in competition with his younger sister for the title of Family Daredevil, could not stand the fact that he’d never broken a bone and she had broken two. And he did try, for years—jumping, falling, deliberately crashing down on his arm trying to break it. He never succeeded. And now, he’s broken a bone without even trying. I call Urgent Care to inquire about their coronavirus procedures.
I peruse an x-ray showing two separate breaks. “I wasn’t even trying,” my son says. Six weeks, they tell us.
One afternoon, I hear a sound from the playroom that sounds suspiciously like that of propellant-powered whipped cream leaving the can. I run down to see my son, in his pajamas, sitting on the couch watching YouTube and squirting whipped cream straight into his mouth.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I ask him.
“Whuuu?” he says, his eyes wide and guileless, shrugging his good arm innocently as he clutches the can of whipped cream. His mouth is so full he can’t talk.
“Duuda guh muh…” he swallows, licks his lips, tries again. “Daddy got me my own personal can of whipped cream. Because I broke my arm.” He squirts another large dollop into his mouth and grins at me.
My husband and I might have to chat. Then again, breaking his arm has severely limited my son’s various coping skills—riding his bike, doing chin-ups on the doorframe bar in the kitchen, attempting parkour on our swingset. Even video games are complicated. In the grand scheme of things, what’s one can of whipped cream?
In the grand scheme of things, what’s one can of whipped cream?
My two younger sons reach a point where the shagginess of their hair can no longer be tolerated. I gave up on my oldest son years ago; at 13, his hair is now longer than my own, and my hair is long. He is doing his own thing—which includes, at least for now, never cutting his hair. So I say “Go with God, my son,” and encourage him to donate his hair, when (if?) he outgrows this phase.
But the younger two boys have got to have a trim. My husband can give a decent summer haircut, but my 11-year-old insists on cutting his hair himself. With one arm. It looks less bad than I anticipated. My six-year-old son looks great, his soft hair buzzed into summery near-perfection.
“His head is like a fuzzy chick again!” my 15-year-old daughter says, as “fuzzy chick head” is an annual marker in our family of the turn from spring into summer. And my six-year-old loves it—a snugglebug by nature, he has gotten even more snuggly while waiting out the pandemic. Throughout the day he bounces from me to my 15-year-old to my 13-year-old, just wanting to be held. He wriggles into the hammock with me, curling up into a tight ball while I read my sad books. And he loves that the entire family now pats his fuzzy chick head.
One night my six-year-old climbs up on the couch beside me, arranges his blanket just so, and helps himself to my arm. Wrapping that arm around himself, he says, “I wish all this coronavirus stuff never happened.”
“Me too, little buddy,” I reply.
He snuggles even closer to me, holding on to my arm, and leans his fuzzy chick head against my shoulder.
“But I’m still getting through it very nicely I think,” he says.
Together, we wait for the world to heal.