“Where is the first place you will go when this is over?” The first time I was asked the question, I wanted to scream. A sneak attack by an invisible enemy had just left the entire world in crisis. My brain was on a non-stop merry-go-round of daily statistics: How many people were infected; how many were in hospital; how many were in intensive care; and how many had died. I couldn’t think about what I would do when it was over; I could only think about what to do to get through it.
A year later, we are still not at the end of it, but I know where I will go – where I need to go – when this is over. I will go to the ocean.
I want to stand on the shore and feel the undertow steal the sand from beneath my feet and try to carry it back out to sea. I want to watch the sun create crystals that sparkle, shimmy and dance on the waves. I want see the turquoise water of the shoreline deepen to a inky, indigo blue on the horizon. I want the tangy, salty scent of the ocean air to fill my nostrils and my lungs. But mostly, I want the soothing, rhythmic sound of the ocean’s waves to clear my mind and wash the slate clean.
Maybe it’s the curfew imposed on Quebec yesterday that has me pondering again on the pandemic. This time it’s the pangs of loss that wash over me for the most unexpected – and sometimes silly – reasons that are making me sit up and take notice. I’m talking about the little background things we take so much for granted that we only realize the colour they add to our lives when they’re gone.
Ben is grateful that football and other live sports are back on the air. I’m not a die-hard sports fan but I watch the occasional hockey game and I never miss the Super Bowl (or at least I hang in there until the half-time show). But I get a lump in my throat when I see games being played against a landscape of row upon row of empty stadium seats. Isn’t that silly? I miss the crowds in the stands wearing caps or holding cheesy rubber hands with their team logos. I miss the cheers – and the boos. I even miss the pan to the Jumbotron with goofy fans hamming it up for the camera. Some day we will get back to full stadiums.
We’re all looking forward to the day we can hold on tightly to our loved ones for as long as we want. But what about hugs from people who, whether they know you well or are just a passing acquaintance, greet you with open arms? As an introvert who reserves hugs to those in my close circle, I always found this uncomfortable.
I could feel my apprehension rise and my insides get twisted in knots when someone closed in on me, arms wide open for a hug. For a brief moment, my impulse was to back away but then reason prevailed and I surrendered. Now I wonder whether this ingrained reaction will have changed when we finally do get back to normal. Because someday we will get back to hugs, both welcome and less welcome.
Right now, I see this as the infamous darkest hour before dawn. In my mind, at least, that means dawn is just a figurative hour away. When the second-hand ticks past the 60th second in this dark hour, the virus, quarantine and curfews will be a thing of the past. Then the sky’s the limit when it comes to how many ways we can appreciate both the big and little things in life.
My hands smooth away wrinkles and fold my white jeans in practiced movements born of muscle memory. With my summer wardrobe scattered around me, I do the same with each piece, filling a storage bin with the freshly-washed, brightly-coloured clothes of the season. The motions take me back to when I did the same thing with my son’s baby and toddler clothes. With each tiny T-shirt folded came a bittersweet reflection, “He will never wear this again because it will not fit next summer.” To everything, there is a season.
There were things I knew for certain then. My son would grow taller; summer would come again; we would take a vacation; have family gatherings; eat out and do a thousand other little things. I saw the world through the eyes of youth and it was mine for the taking. Now I know better. The threats were always there: World unrest, racial discrimination, killer viruses, just waiting for the right moment to detonate. But rose-colored glasses can be a wonderful thing, can’t they? Still, I wonder if those were more innocent times or if I was the innocent one. Maybe it was a little of both but that time is over. To everything there is a season.
Outside, the geese are honking their good-byes as they fly south. How can the same sound be so sweet in the spring when they announce the coming of summer, and so sad in the fall when they are the harbinger of winter? To everything, there is a season.
I stand and go to the window to watch them flap toward their winter home in their V formation.
“Safe travels,” I whisper. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could strap COVID to your backs and you could fly it high, high above and leave it where it could disappear and never hurt anyone again?” Hello, rose-coloured glasses, where have you been? No matter, you can’t stay. To everything there is a season.
But hope is different from rose-coloured glasses. We can hope that by the time I pull out the bin of summer clothing again, the world will have changed for the better. It may not be the world we knew before COVID, but with a little luck, hope and prayers to our respective Gods, it will be better than the world during COVID. To everything there is a season.