COVIDiaries-19: Give me (all of us) a break

Preparing to do our big travel “triangle” (Alaska to California to Wisconsin and back) isn’t quite as simple as I’d made it seem in my last post, a Norman Rockwell-esque portrait of us all packing one duffel. This morning, Ansel woke me up at six. I switched on the radio in our still-waking-up kitchen. They’re talking about refrigerated trucks again. Morguemobiles.

Of all the states, it had to be Wisconsin. My home state is at capacity, as though it’s a Hootie and the Blowfish concert and not peoples’ actual lives and deaths about which they’re speaking. “But how many people have actually died from COVID?” My dad asks. Two hundred and fifty-two thousand. In this country. So far.

The past few days’ cold, relentless wind making whitecaps on the channel, snapping loose boats from their moorings, seems to have been testing me. Even my only fall decorations, these little crocheted pumpkins, my nod to the spiced-latte side of fall, seem to be a chore to move out of the way for each cobbled-together dinner.

How many things in life are meant to cause happiness but actually stir up misery? In summer I shoved the pumpkins further back in the closet as fall was some distant idea. Of course they came out eventually with the ramping-up of Halloween. We bought in, minus the friends with whom we would have gone trick-or-treating, plus buckets and buckets of rain.

Experiencing a holiday buildup and subsequent letdown through a kid’s eyes can be rough stuff

We dragged the kids along in a downpour to the neighbors’ clothes- and zip-lined candy setups. Imogen, who had been trying to decide what to dress up as for a full calendar year, was a classic-beauty Elsa, completely saturated from head to toe, the double-lined fleece cape with ostrich-feather tie I’d made her, in the end, just weighing her down.

It was around this time we booked our tickets to California and Wisconsin, to go spend some time with our families we miss daily, even in summer, to have something to look forward to, to add another timestamp to our kids’ lives, to just get them off their own street and island and with their cousins and grandparents, even if just for two weeks. It would be enough.

So, after scheduling our COVID test, our family photo, dentist appointments for all four of us, and having to inform Immy’s preschool the day before Thanksgiving will be her last day, Alaska Airlines informs us we have to FLY HOME FROM A DIFFERENT STATE and I have to ask my brother to drive us to Chicago instead of to Milwaukee.

And underlying all of it is should we go? “It will all be alright in the end,” my sister-in-law assures me. “What’s the alternative?” asks Jacob, in a calm moment. “You tell that little girl she doesn’t get to go see her cousins?” he whisper yells at me while on the phone with Alaska Airlines, as I’m gesturing to him that they can’t do this to us or we’ll cancel.

Meanwhile, we had our first solid pine door installed. If you are thinking a door? try working in 1100 square feet with a two- and four-year-old who just wanna have fun! and hollow-core doors. I’m so keyed up about this trip and the goddamn virus and its implications every time the handyman Ron’s air compressor sounds I practically have a heart attack.

And yet. Ansel somehow manages to fall asleep while I’m holding him, the kids and me cuddled in Immy’s bed with the laptop. We’ll go through that new door, then make sure Ansel can open and close it. Some days will be more difficult than others. We’ll keep going through it, together, again and again, and again and again and again.

“A pumpkin in the rain” by Imogen at Juneau Coop Preschool, November 11, 2020.

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