Tainted Sunshine

This afternoon is spent how most of our spring and summer Sunday afternoons are – outside. For a split second, I trick myself into thinking it is a normal Sunday.

Into thinking things are as they always are, as they should be.

The fresh air is amazing. The glimpses of sun coming and going give breath to my lungs and hope to my soul. Lucy traces my lanes in the lawn as I mow.

And then the neighbor kid comes. As naturally and innocently as he can, he waltzes right into our driveway, his new remote control dump truck zooming right alongside him.

Lucy is immediately drawn within 6 feet of him, into his Covid bubble.

“Try it!” He says.

She no sooner takes it from his hand than my stomach twists in a knot. Before I can think twice, I yell, “Wait!” This simultaneously feels instinctive and counterintuitive, much like most of life right now.

Tension, put simply.

Instinctive because a human’s primary need is survival, and survival right now looks like social distance, but counterintuitive because a human’s primary need is also to connect, and connection most Sunday afternoons looks exactly like Lucy playing with her friend’s new remote control dump truck and squeals of pure joy oozing from both of their faces.

Panic, inner turmoil, unrest – every human’s gut reaction upon stepping foot beyond our own four walls right now.

They both freeze, stare at me as if I’ve just stopped them from jumping in front of a car.

It took every ounce in me not to burst into tears at their innocent, oblivious faces.

You can explain things a million and one times to a child, but precious, wonderful oblivion will squelch their logic every time – one of the most unfortunate skills we lose when we grow up – the beautiful inability to allow logic to win.

“When the sickness is over, then can I go past the driveway Mommy?” she asks, one foot in the cul de sac, one on the front lawn.

“Yes, baby,” I say, “when the sickness is over.”

Right at this moment another neighbor girl walks out of her house. Lucy and her friend, him now standing six feet away from our driveway, wave excitedly.

“Hi!” they say.

Their neighbor friend looks up, waves a nervous wave, runs back inside.

I wonder what she’s processing, what messages are going off in her 7 year old brain, in all of their little minds.

Excitement at the site of their friends, met instinctively with precautions that they don’t fully understand, but that they know they must take heed of because of the serious tones their parents warn them with on the daily.

It’s all too much. It’s not natural. Things are not at all as they should be. In a way it is beautiful, the blatant reminder of our need for each other.

In another way – a big, loud, angry way that most days has me ugly crying at least once – all I want is to hug my neighbor tight and watch the neighborhood kids play outside until the sun is setting and everyone smells of dirt and sunshine.

All I want is to be together again in the flesh.

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