“Mommy, why isn’t anyone outside?” my 7-year-old asked as she walked through the garage door—and I felt every part of it.
After everything was canceled and postponed back in March, our neighbors all quarantined for a week or two of isolation. After no symptoms showed, we began to pull our lawn chairs out again and let our kids cling to one small shred of normalcy and play at a distance because ain’t nobody was going anywhere.
A true community was built over trampoline and firepit parties, over radical availability and letting our non-makeuped guards down that, without a doubt, none of us—parents and kids alike—will ever forget.
But now, as the darkness descends at what feels like 5 p.m. (thanks, Daylight Saving Time) and 40-degree evenings fill the air, that normalcy has begun to be stripped from us.
Adults filling driveways after work in camping chairs over mixed pitchers has morphed into everyone staying warm inside because there’s only so long a hot Yeti beverage can last.
This happens every year, of course, when late fall hits.
But this year it feels different. Ominous, really.
Other winter activities we usually replace outdoor play with – the children’s museum, kid’s basketball games, holiday parties, etc. – may be non-existent as we err on the side of safety.
Those awkward Zoom calls with everyone interrupting each other and saying, “No you go first!” will assuredly return and, if spring was any indication, they won’t measure up—and I’m worried.
I’m worried about my kids’ mental health. I’m worried about mine.
One thing 2020 has reminded me, though, is that we are resilient people.
I know this all too well. After a serious stroke severely impaired the use of my dominant hand, I had to adapt if I ever wanted to write, type, or tie my shoes again.
As my dominant hand began to cramp and convulse while I tried to write in physical therapy, I was angry. I was angry about what I had lost.
I was scared. I was scared I would never be able to write better than a kindergartener again.
I began to use my non-dominant left hand as writing speed was 3X as fast, even if my hand looked like I’m a pirate hooking the pencil.
A few years later, I tried using the dominant right hand again. It was frustratingly slow. It was wobbly. But I knew it would get to a point when it was too late to adapt to my new normal and I would be the awkward pirate-hook girl forever.
Now, 10 years later, I’m an ambidextrous queen who writes with my left hand on the left page and my dominant hand on the right.
I learned, as we all have this year, that when presented with great challenges, plan B is better than nothing at all.
I’m sure you have similar stories of pivoting when life gives you no other choice.
During this pandemic, maybe you’ve worked full-time from home while teaching the kids over lunch breaks or meal planned like a boss using what’s in your pantry and freezer when your salary was furloughed.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we’re incredibly creative people who, push come to shove, can (and will) find a way to make it work.
We’ve watched teachers rock in-person and Zoom classes simultaneously and adapt their classrooms and schedules to incorporate mask and sanitizing breaks.
We’ve seen major television networks film at a distance and offer remotely recorded singalongs we’re all counting down to.
This Halloween, people left candy on their lawn using yard flags. They distributed candy down PVC pipes. We figured it the heck out and I have no doubt we will continue to do so.
We’ve adapted. We’ve pivoted.
And that’s why I’m choosing hope.
Rather than despairing about how isolating winter will be, I’m hopeful for heated one-door-up garage fellowship and online board games played with friends we haven’t seen in years around the world.
I’m hopeful for visits with great grandparents on their nursing home balconies or as we teach them to use FaceTime on devices we gifted because we miss their sweet faces.
Just as we have over the past warm nine months, we’ll creatively adjust to the next colder three.
And when the buds begin to pop on the other side of ice and snow, I can’t wait to look back and be absolutely amazed at how creatively we made this pandemic winter, this Plan B, into something truly beautiful.
If you’re scared of what these next few months will hold, have hope.
Prep what you can (space heaters and inflatable hot tubs, say what!), brainstorm how to gather safely with your crew in advance, and know, without a doubt, we will figure this out together.