This post originally appeared on my tinyletter, Where is my Mind?
Hi. It’s been a while. We’ve all been busy with the pandemic. Well, maybe busy isn’t the right word. Distracted? Better, but not quite. I’ve been writing a kind of COVID-19 diary on my regular blog, and one of them was a speculative piece about what would have happened if this pandemic had happened in the mid-1990s. I looked at it from a kind of bird’s eye view perspective, but still personal, assuming my own situation in Montreal/Sherbrooke in my early 20s.
But I didn’t, couldn’t, write that despite an outward appearance of ok-ness via privilege, being sent home from university being stuck there, essentially cut off from any social support system probably would have killed me. Literally. I was fragile, always on the cusp of breaking, pieces crumbling off, with me trying to pick them up and putting them back together. Being sent back to the place I was desperately trying to escape, being stuck there in a way that I had never previously been…
I would have broken, scattered pieces everywhere. I used to be able to run away, to go somewhere to escape so I could try to keep myself together, but with nowhere to go, whatever hope I had would be gone. I held on so long knowing that I was going to go away for university, that there was a path forward, a path out, and to have that path closed off, temporarily, but still with no clear re-opening, I would have despaired. I would have given up.
I tentatively tweeted about that scenario, in part to communicate to colleagues to check in our their students, especially the ones we might not because privilege outwardly communicates ok-ness. Yes, food and shelter are important, but if where that food and shelter are coming from is toxic…
I tentatively tweeted about that scenario because I am so grateful that my own kids, themselves 11 and 13, are perfectly content (or at least as content as they can be) staying home. We had a tele-session with their talky doctor and she told me how well the kids seem to be doing, thriving even, under these conditions. I am proud of the home we’ve built, one where our kids feel welcome, feel comfortably, feel like they can be themselves, a place where they don’t have to be scared.
A place where they want to bring friends to be safe as well.
What would have happened if the pandemic happened in the early 1990s, when my brother and I were the same age as my own kids are now? I guess it depends: pre-divorce, post-divorce but pre-step-father moving in, or post-step-father moving in? Pre-divorce would have been terrifying, as would post-step-father moving in – both those scenarios were bad enough in real life without the pandemic and it would have been turned up to 11, which…I don’t want to imagine. It is too scary to think about, honestly.
The only hope in those two scenarios is that my grandparents were still alive, and even with fears of them getting sick, I hope that we (pre-divorce) or me (post-step-father moving in) would have been able to escape there.
But there is one small window, the post- but pre- one, where it would have just been the three of us, stuck in the house together, trying to figure out how to be a family again, one not built on fear, but on love. A window where maybe we could have, because we were forced to, learn who we were and who we were becoming, to accept each other, to grow together under difficult circumstances. A moment where my fears were about external threats, rather than ones that lived under the same roof as I did.
I imagine that maybe that time together could have been healing, that it could have lead to a much different future, a better future. Or at least a less-broken set of teenage years and memories.
I will never say that I am grateful for those real years, even if it all lead me to where I am today. I love my life now, proud of what we have built, however imperfect. I still can’t help but think about the possibility that maybe it didn’t have to be the way it was, if not for me, but for the rest of my family.
I hope you are all safe. I hope that you are in a space where your fears are from external forces and not living under the same roof. I hope that, if needed, you can find in this an opportunity to heal those relationships that are broken.