Where is she now? What's ahead, I'd like to know. We are months beyond where she spoke to us from, and there are little or no guide lines, no warnings from the future. I like lists. I could make a list of the Top Five Hard Things About Quarantine, and it would definitely always include Not Knowing What to Expect. Other hardships come and go, fall and rise in ranking, but the uncertainty is always there, always difficult. I get it, life has always been uncertain, but hey! Come on, this is on an exceptional scale, wouldn't you agree?
I am glad school is drawing to a close. Summer is always welcome, but now it feels like a particularly necessary opportunity to recover. I've seen a post going around, a list of 'all the life skills kids should be taught, because they aren't at school and their free time should be filled with lessons, drills, and reminders that our generation did more, better, and they will be plucky and amenable if they can master these tasks necessary to function in 1982.' Ok, I'm being critical. The list has some good suggestions, and of course children can learn all sorts of skills, and good manners. But that list, coupled with the stress and anxiety of a pandemic, zoom classes, online lessons, missing friends, losing rites of passage, and usual activities, hobbies, clubs, and countless other good ideas begging for their attention... the list could be put down, for a bit. I was going to say "burned." But, everyone has different needs, different issues.
For us... I see this summer as decompression time. Maria's school did their best in extraordinary circumstances, but it was tenuous, stressful, technically challenged, it couldn't help but magnify the literal disconnect between student and teacher, peers, discourse. And it was hard not to think back to how it used to be, and not evoke those feelings of "I miss back when..." So, even though we cannot do all the things we might usually do over summer, I think it will help to do as much, or as little, as we like that is just normal. Our normal. Summer and reading books, drawing, sketching, doodling. Summer and star gazing, campfires, gardening, building something, taking something apart. Summer and cooking outdoors, cooking something new, or weird, and eating some place new, like beside a tree, beneath a bedsheet tent. Summer and choosing an online class, or camp, for fun, without penalty, just because. Summer and walking, biking, yoga, climbing, tumbling, dancing, stretching, tag, darts, headstands, skateboarding, shooting hoops. Summer and listening... us listening to them, hearing their questions, following their interests, supporting their needs, reading their lists. I'm not worried that Maria won't learn enough, or that she will fall behind. Learning is forever, and the old lists won't always apply to the new ways of doing things. These young people, sooner than ever, are tasked with living in their future, paving the way for unforeseen, and unprecedented ways of looking at and being in the world. Summer could be our time to see what matters most, and play with that, learn from that, stay curious, and be.
Learning is forever, and it can happen anywhere. Black Lives Matter. Voting matters. Communities and safety nets matter. Protest, and being anti-racist matters. Giving back to our community, volunteering, mentoring, sharing, these matter. Frankly, these lessons are far more pressing, urgent, than common core, and test scores. We cannot fail Black people, immigrants, the disabled, anyone labeled other. We are failing ourselves if we don't learn that injustice, systemic racism, and inequality cannot be part of our future, and to change we must actively seek better, new ways of seeing each other, and being in the world. We are tasked with living in the better future, now.