Charlotte, Today 6:30 am.
The morning dawns, stormy and wet. It is yet another morning this spring when I wake up to the wail of gusty winds and the clamor of thunderous rain. Another morning when the paucity of sunshine reflects the gloom of the pandemic that hangs over our world. Another morning when the blossoming rose bushes, the swaying stalks of daffodils and cherry blossom trees in full bloom do not transcend to hope. This year, along with her innate unpredictability, spring has also brought upon us inclement times. Today, the torrential downpour only amplifies the dread and worry in my heart.
I yearn for the steaming warmth of a cup of coffee and walk into the kitchen. One glance at the kitchen sink and an instant feeling of overwhelm clings to my heart. The sink overflows with dirty dishes.
‘I should have taken care of this last night,’ I admonish myself in a tone filled with remorse. ‘But didn’t I run a load of the dishwasher after dinner? There were just a few ice cream bowls to be done. Did they multiply? I’m so tired of this.’
A couple of baking tins and a whisk stick out from the pile of dirty dishes. A lingering aroma of cinnamon and banana wafts in the air. I do not need Sherlock to deduce what has transpired last night. The kids have been baking again, at midnight. Mug cakes, banana bread and definitely Dalgona coffee.
‘Be careful what you wish for,’ I say to myself.
Dec. 31st, 2019, 11:55 pm.
The family is sprawled on the floor in the family room of our home, nestled under blankets. We have just returned from a fun filled trip to Universal Studios, Orlando. Our eyes are tired and glued to the television as we wait and watch for the ball to drop.
“Are you excited about the New Year?” I ask the kids.
My daughter sits up. “I am! Graduation, a new job, moving to California…I am looking forward to it” she gleams.
“I am too. It’s going to be so cool if I get into Governor’s school, Mom. My friends say it is an opportunity of a lifetime. My Calculus teacher thinks my chances are good. If I get in, it will be a fun summer!” my son, a junior in high school says as he nuzzles the puppy.
“I’m pretty sure you’ll get in too, genius. But come spend some time with me in Palo Alto, before you head off to Gov. school?” she suggests.
“Yes!!!” He perks up at the thought of spending time with his sister.
“Are you going to get a puppy when you move?” he asks her.
“Maybe, once I settle. I think I’ll adopt one.”
As they continue to dream and converse, I find myself mulling over the duality of emotions that arise within. I am a seasoned golf widow but an inexperienced empty nester. Next summer will be my first in twenty years without the kids. I am proud that my fledglings are ready to soar yet am unable to take my mind off the gnawing, growing loneliness their absence will create.
Ten, nine, eight, seven…the countdown begins. Cries of ‘Happy New Year’ fill the air.
Unaware that the joyous shouts are to herald in a new year, our dog zooms around excited. I hold my family tight and there’s only one thing I wish for in the coming year – moments of togetherness, which I know will be hard to come by in the next few years. I want to go on long walks, bake together, have endless discussions, and play board games. That’s all. I let my wish drift into the Universe with the faith that it will manifest.
20th March -2020
We are in the living room playing a game of Catan. The family has been home together, socially distanced from our extended family and friends for almost a week now. Our daughter is home for spring break and in all probability will be here for at least a month. Our son has been accepted to Governor’s school. Our niece who moved to the city for a training just prior to the lockdown is with us too. Life is good. Our pantry is stocked, and we have enough hand soap and toilet paper.
“Mom, do you have any wheat? Could you trade wheat for a log?” my son asks after he rolls his dice on his turn.
“I could trade wheat for ore” I reply.
“I could give you an ore and a log for a wheat and a sheep,” he negotiates.
I look around the board. I need the ore to build a city. It’s a good deal.
We continue to trade sheep, wheat, bricks, wood and ore with zest to build roads, settlements, and cities in an imaginary world. As we live vicariously through the game, it brings us hope and helps us believe that soon we will flatten the curve and tide over this strange time to build a new world.
“Let’s bake a carrot cake after the game,” my niece suggests.
“And we can whip up some Dalgona coffee too” my daughter adds.
Yum! The mere mention of the food and I feel the pounds add up at the waist.
The kids are honing their culinary skills. We’ve had chef style meals almost every day for the past week. This time has been a gift and is exactly what I had wished for at the birth of the new year.
Today May 10th 2020.
I stand in front of the loaded kitchen sink, fighting back tears.
We’ve been together for weeks. Just as I wanted. There have been endless sessions of baking, playing Catan and taking long walks. We’ve transitioned easily to zoom meetings and online classes. On the face of it, inside of our home -our bubble – life is as I had envisioned.
Yet, much has changed. Even though my daughter will graduate, there will be no graduation ceremony. No farewells to friends, no memorable closure to a wondrous phase of her life that has just ended and no move in the immediate future. Governor’s school has been cancelled for this year and my son doesn’t know how all of this will affect his college applications. Our niece may never get a chance to meet her colleagues in the city or see her workplace.
The nest will certainly not be empty for sure this summer, but the dreams of our children have been disbanded.
As I stand in my kitchen that rainy morning, tears begin to flow. I grieve not just for our children but also for my dear uncle who is battling cancer alone at this time. I grieve for the doctor in New York who survived the virus but succumbed to the sadness and devastation she witnessed on the front lines. I grieve for the battered victims of domestic violence, and for the waitress who has served so many but struggles to put food on her own table. As the death toll escalates, the turmoil and sorrow in the world mount.
Just like the dishes in the kitchen sink do. It all piles up.
The tears flow, and I cannot stop them. When will this end? How will it end?
I brew the coffee and head to my favorite couch by the window. The storm has passed and like a typical spring morning, the sun now peeks through the clouds. Raindrops glisten on the branches of the cherry blossom tree in front of the window. A little birdie is perched on a branch there. With her brown and red plumage, and her bright red beak, she is a sight to behold. She holds a twig in her beak. I wonder if the storm has destroyed her nest. Our eyes meet. Hers sparkle with resolve, mine brim with disillusion. She looks at me tenderly and says, “Storms come and go, but mamas need to continue to build our nests, nestle them with warmth and fill them with new dreams.”
Stunned, I ask,” What? How…where do I begin?”
“Baby steps, mama” she smiles and winks at me, “I’ll start with a twig. You can start with the dishes.”