So here we are in the middle of a pandemic. Few of us could have ever imagined what life would look like in August of 2020. In normal times, as parents and teachers of young children, we would be getting excited about the new school year and savoring the last days of summer before everything gets crazy busy again.
The tone of this time is very reminiscent for me of the days and months following September 11th of 2001. I speak for many – especially those of us who lived just blocks from the World Trade Center site – when I say it was other-worldly, thoroughly disturbing our sense of reality and normalcy. How could we get through it? How will our world look in the future? Will life ever feel normal again?
I believe life will feel normal again, just altered. Changes may be significant, but we will make it normal. We humans are extremely adaptable. Life will not be the same but that doesn’t have to mean awful. Our kids will, as always, take their cues from us.
On September 12, 2001 I closed the playgroup for a a short time – a total of three days as I recall. We had only just begun the school year on the 10th. The playgroup families did various things. Some got out of the city while others hunkered down in place. My daughter Sara and I travelled to my sister Frances and her family in Massachusetts. I went to the ocean the day after I got there. There was no one there but me and I cried and screamed into the air that thousands of people had just died and that I was so sad and so scared. I scared the daylights out of the seagulls who were walking on the beach I remember, which made me laugh a little between crying and screaming.
When we got back to New York I resumed the playgroup and vowed to myself to make it an oasis for the kids and the families. And it was. One family moved out of New York right away, but everyone else stayed. By the end of the school year we all felt lucky to have been part of something bright and hopeful.
I have that same feeling right now, although we’re going through a far more complicated time. We have to fight to get our lives back and fight injustice with regard to people of color, especially black people in this country. I’ve learned to be not just a non-racist, but an actively anti-racist person. This forcibly quiet and unhurried moment is a gift.
As I ready my playgroup space and my mind for this coming year, I have that same determination to make the playgroup a sanctuary. And I know it will be.