(Editor’s note: The day this article appears is Easter Monday in the 2021 Christian calendar. I didn’t plan it like that, but it seems appropriate, given the article’s theme.)
Life changed last year and it will never be the same.
Now I find myself wondering how will it change again as we reintegrate ourselves back into the world. Perhaps as we reunite with loved ones with whom we have been separated from for so long, we will be gifted with more appreciation for life.
My husband and I are physicians, and as such we were fortunate to be vaccinated in the first wave. As soon as my mother was fully vaccinated, we swabbed our son’s and his best friend’s nose, threw them in the car, and drove 1382 miles from Seattle, Washington to Boulder, Colorado. We left at the end of online school on Friday and arrived at my mother’s before it started on Monday. My son’s school has been online since March 23rd, 2020. For twelve months he has only played with his best friend in a socially distanced manner outside wearing masks. They were limited to riding bikes, kicking a soccer ball, or snowboarding.
Since reuniting, they have giggled cheek to cheek watching episodes of the Simpsons during our twenty-hour haul across the American West. They climbed rocks at windy rest stops, ate burgers together in their own hotel room, and learned to play poker which they love. After twelve months of online gaming (grossly surpassing the amount of screentime any child should ever have) they haven’t been on their iPads once since getting to Colorado outside of their lessons. They huck rocks into the pond that lies behind my mother’s house, play hide and seek, and build forts like my sister and I used to.
The drive–through long–is a beautiful one and a route I drove in my 20’s and again in my 30’s. The stark western landscape seemed more breathtaking on this trip than I remembered. Perhaps I appreciated it more because I’m older now and I write so am always on the lookout for detail. Maybe my senses were primed because I haven’t traveled in a year. But I think I saw things differently because of how our lives were irrevocably altered in the last year.
After crossing our own local mountains, we traveled through rolling barren hills in Eastern Washington covered in shrubs. We crossed an Oregon mountain pass as a blizzard swirled around us. My trusty Subaru trekked on through an ever shifting landscape brushed with snow. Sunlight pressed the contours and jagged edges of hillsides into stark relief in fantastic and unpredictable ways. The olive-colored Oregon landscape turned to a wild west movie-worthy brown terrain in Idaho. Inspiring mountains peaks and a full rainbow highlighted our drive through Utah. The desolate dry wasteland in Wyoming finally succumbed to dazzling yellow fields as we neared Colorado. My husband and I were awed by our country’s vastness, its gorgeous large swaths of emptiness. It felt as if we had never really seen the stunning beauty of America before, and it had a powerful effect on our psyche.
We weren’t sure we were going to make our journey on the ludicrous timeline I had set, but when I realized we were only three hours from my mother’s house I was filled with a yearning to see her I hadn’t felt since she went to the hospital for the birth of my little sister when I was three. I refused to stop overnight in Laramie despite my husband’s protests. My son too wanted to push on through to his grandmother’s (previously my grandmother’s) house where we both have wonderful childhood memories.
My mother hadn’t hugged anyone in a year.
My mother is in her 70’s and has been in good health. An introvert who has never enjoyed socializing in large groups, she spends most of her days gardening. Women in our family are campers, outdoor women, and pack rats. She has two girlfriends she walked with daily throughout the pandemic. So while I worried about a lot of things last year, I never worried about her. She was so happy we made it Sunday night and didn’t have to wait one more day to embrace us.
But when I hugged her I realized I should have worried about her more. I should have called her more, Facetimed with her, sent pictures, and thought about her more than I did. She was lonely. I woke up early the next morning because I wanted to be with her, talk to her about the mundane details of life, and drink the cheap coffee she drinks, instant Nescafe. My grandmother also drank it and I’m too much of a Seattle coffee snob to ever purchase it myself. But I always drink it here when I sit on the sofa watching the Rocky Mountains change color in the sunrise. It pairs nicely with this house and all the memories I’ve accumulated here throughout my life.
Nescafe has always tasted good here, but this year it tastes divine.
I sit here in my grandfather’s old bedroom writing, his doctorate in Natural Science dated July 1944 hangs behind me. The shelves are filled with photo albums and transcribed family letters dating back to the turn of the last century. I’m home, surrounded by family and I appreciate it more than I ever thought I could.
Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control officially announced vaccinated people can be indoors together without masks. So as you and your loved ones get vaccinated and finally finish that long, painful, lonely wait, cherish the reunion with friends and family. We once took so much for granted. Now we may see the colors of the world brighter than we ever have. Perhaps as writers we will overcome the brain fog and writer’s block that has plagued so many of us during these dark times and capture with our pens the beauty of life’s simple pleasures like never before.
Søvn Drake is an emerging writer who can be found haunting coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. More about her and her writing can be found at: https://sovndrakestories.wordpress.com
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