Sitting down and writing is a luxury I haven’t had in the pandemic. It’s such a strange thing to think about, that we’ve been home since March. When the pandemic started, I was trying to straighten out my aunt’s estate. We’re still in the pandemic, and I’m still trying to straighten things out, but it is further along which is a relief.
I find parenting in the pandemic surreal. My son is 7, and if someone isn’t in the room with him, he tends not to log in or stay logged in. The same kid who could play video games for hours wants nothing to do with online learning. He wants to talk with a person who talks back. He loves his teacher, but he knows his teacher is talking to over 20 kids, and he’s lucky if he gets called on once or twice during the day. When I’m there, he talks to me. He wants to connect and share. Sometimes, he just wants to curl up and be held. If we snuggle for 10 minutes, we both feel better.
We went walking over the weekend, and I asked him what questions he had about the pandemic. He wanted to know why this was different than other colds and viruses. He wanted to know when and how it would end and if there would be another one. He wanted to know if he had to go to school, and when he did if it would be the same or different. He wanted to know if people would hug again. He also wanted me to know he was ok with not hugging as long as we could still hug sometimes. Me, too.
My mom was a hugger. My aunt wasn’t. One of her friends described her as spikey. That was a good description. She could be warm and generous and funny. She was always smart. But, she felt betrayed easily. It was hard for her to trust people. She and my mom had incredibly hard lives. My grandfather died when they were young, and my grandmother struggled with raising children. She locked them in the closet when she brought over dates because she said men didn’t want to see children. Neither my mom or my aunt even felt good enough.
My aunt kept an incredible collection of slides and photos. Going through them over the last year, I remembered what it was like when I was little and my mom and aunt lived across the street from each other. On Friday nights, my dad would go out, and they would open a bottle of wine and talk. I loved those nights. They were incredibly happy and laughed hard. They could fight like nobody’s business, but they laughed a ton, too.
I don’t remember my mom laughing like that after we moved away. I don’t remember my aunt laughing like that, either. We all still got together, but it always felt forced, until my mom had cancer. My mom had moved in with me, but once it metastasized, she went home. She hadn’t talked to my aunt in a number of years, but at some point, my aunt called. It then became a weekly thing for my aunt to come over. My dad started traveling a lot, so when I was there, it was often the three of us again. Some of the time, they laughed like they had all those years ago.
My aunt was a mess when my mom died. She could be spikey, and she was incredibly spikey then. She came to visit me a few times, but she was still spikey. We hadn’t talked in a long time when she called to tell me she had cancer. On the last day together, we talked about my mom. The spikes were gone. We were back in the kitchen on a Friday night, when stories were told, laughter was made, and joy was found by those who carried so much with them. I miss them, both.