“Grandmommy, tell me the story of 2020,” the little girl begged.
“Are you sure, sweetie? The story of 2020 is not for the faint of heart. I don’t know if your mom would want me to—”
“I won’t tell her you told me. I’m old enough,” she declared. It would be their secret.
“Alright, but promise me you’ll stop me if you get too scared.”
The girl crossed her heart.
“It all started in March, at your aunt’s chorus concert. We were jammed into the school cafeteria for Fine Arts Night and one of the teachers told me to get ready for virtual learning because they’d gotten a memo about it. Virtual learning, I wondered. What’s that? Someone in front of me coughed, and I remembered the coronavirus I’d been hearing so much about on the news. That evening when I got home, I got an email that they were closing schools for a week. The virtual learning had commenced. One by one, emails came in canceling sports, church, the dentist, and closing the gym and yoga. My conferences and work projects got postponed. Everything ground to a halt.”
“Ba-ba-bummmm,” the girl chimed in dramatically.
“Indeed. I thought, what a delightful opportunity to take a little break. We’d sleep in, wave at teachers through our Chromebooks. What an adventure! We could handle one week. Your mom was thrilled. She hated school. Your uncle was indifferent. He hunkered down in the dank basement like a bat. Your aunt missed school but made the best of it, running around the yard barefoot playing with birds and squirrels.”
“Like Cinderella,” the little girl said.
“Just like Cinderella. And there was singing and dancing and everyone was happy to help out. And then at the end of that one week, the school system emailed that there would be a second one just like it. A smidge of nervousness rippled through my body. Another week? Fine. We would do it. For America. So I became the cafeteria lady, the PE teacher, and the really terrible math tutor. Your mom and I took walks. Your aunt and I did yoga together. And I made your uncle leave the basement every day to ride his bike in the fresh air. Part of me wondered if he’d burst into flame when the sunlight hit him.”
“D-did he … flame?”
“He did not. Although he did blister up pretty bad one time. I started spending my nights panic-swiping.”
“No, that’s what people were doing with all the toilet paper. I was panic-swiping. You know, doom-scrolling on my phone. We survived a week, then another, then another. KEEP READING