Our two older kids played outside in the courtyard, unattended, for two hours before dinner yesterday. They were joined by neighbor friends and the hours passed with only minor injury to either body or spirit. Inside, our windows were propped for the warm-enough March breeze and any possible sounds of distress. Our two-year-old is less impervious to bodily harm and has the kind of super-toddler strength and speed that can fling open an iron gate and get her down the block in less than thirty seconds and so we had company. Still, the relative break from weekend togetherness in a New York City apartment during a second pandemic winter made me and James feel very nearly giddy.
We moved the play kitchen into the living room and poured ourselves glasses of wine which we drank while enjoying course after course of wooden vegetables served by a chef who required only the occasional guttural mmmyumumyumyum for payment. As the light shifted in the south-facing windows and the breeze coming through the windows went cold, I set a pot of water to boil on the real stove. Into a hot skillet I tossed cooked chickpeas with garlic and olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt. James and I split the last chocolate chip cookie without anyone around to say otherwise. I cracked the tub of pesto made by the market down the street and eventually gave the eight-minute warning to the kids—or queens, maybe even witches—still gathered outside. It was as close to my vision of ideal weekend parenting as things get around here.
Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the day when Faye’s kindergarten teacher sent around a parent sign-up sheet for volunteers to help with in-classroom hand washing. Just a few more days from now will mark the two-year anniversary of the day New York City schools closed and the rest of the city followed suit. Today my kindergartener is a second-grader and the mask mandate in public schools has been lifted. (My newborn is a two-year-old learning to wear her mask at daycare.) I’m feeling a mixture of irrational hope and irrational fear and maybe a bit of quite rational despair. A siren blaring through my open window is threatening to land me right back in late March of 2020 (minus the newborn and plus a greater fatigue than I ever imagined).
It’s been a very long two years. So much of it has unfolded into scenarios that did not at all match my vision of ideal parenting, weekend or otherwise, but here we are, eating our wooden vegetables and playing in the postage-stamp courtyard, and sipping our wine, and in moments like these anyway, I can almost feel the temperature hovering somewhere close to normal.