My cousin recently described what it’s been like to take her children, an adorable set of four-year-old twins, to the neighborhood playground. Social distancing playtime means patient children await a turn to be gently pushed on a swing, as long as the swing to their left and to their right remain vacant. But many times, there’s no need to wait because most of the neighborhood regulars are staying away. This absence is not lost on the twins, as one of them recently observed, “There are no people. Where are the people?”
A friend of mine has two elementary school-aged daughters. Their zoom school and homework completed, they watch television in the family room, adjacent to the kitchen where my friend is busy preparing dinner. When a popular news magazine program featured a story about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, one of the girls remarked, “Where are their masks?” My friend had to explain that the episode was a repeat from last year, from before the pandemic.
Another friend, along with her husband and two older boys, like to end their busy work week by ordering take out from their favorite neighborhood pizza joint. But as restaurants shuttered, in order to continue their Friday night pizza ritual, my friend began making her own pizza dough. Even though she is by far the best baker I know, the dough has not always risen as it should, and sometimes the results were, as she put it, “flatbread.” The boys, eager for any sort of pizza crust that could support chunks of fresh tomato and gobs of stringy, gooey mozzarella cheese, named this homemade pizza “quarantine pizza.”
While some children are still too young to fully understand, that doesn’t mean they aren’t attuned to the ways, both big and small, that life has changed during 2020. But clearly, children of all ages have been remarkably adaptable. The holiday season has begun and I, more than even, will try to see things through their eyes.