Image by Chayene Rafaela on Unsplash
I have always dreamed of having a family, growing old with my husband and watching our children have children of their own. In my version of events, I imagined sitting in a rocking chair recounting distant memories — good and bad — to my loved ones.
I would describe how hurricanes Irma and Maria rattled my windows and peeled back roofs in 2017. Or watching America’s first black president sworn in on television in 2008, or the agony and aftermath of 9/11 in 2001 and the escalation of technology in the 2010s.
But I never thought I’d relay simple things with tender fondness. Or that hugs and family outings would be rarities in their lifetime. How does one begin to tell the tale of something that isn’t extinct, just forbidden?
COVID-19 showed me the things I took for granted — the ones I might never have again, the ones my children may never know.
Here are 9 experiences my children may never have in no chronological order.
1. A Random Date
I remember the last date I went on. We met through mutual friends. His background checked out, so I threw cares to the wind. We enjoyed a night out at the movies and afterward a romantic stroll along the boardwalk at midnight. We danced under a star-freckled sky to no music and had that straight-out-of-the-movies-almost-kiss that never actualized. My children won’t be able to take such risks with almost strangers.
Going to the movies, holding hands with someone you don’t know and breathing the same air as strangers aren’t on the menu right now. In the end, sharing less than 6 feet of space with anyone is a calculated risk that has to be cautiously instigated and thoughtfully curated. Romantic spontaneity as we once knew it won’t be the same for our children.
2. The Excitement Of A Packed Arena
Remember the wave? A sea of spectators bobbing up and down across the stands shoulder to shoulder with insatiable excitement? Do you remember the chorus of screams or boo’s that filled basketball arenas? Or, how fans sang in unison at concerts while their phone lights flickered in the dark. Be prepared to tell this tale by the campfire too.
3. Flirting From Across The Room
Eyes speak a language all their own. Thankfully, mitigating COVID-19 doesn’t mean covering our eyes. Our mouths are a different story. Our eyes and mouths flirt for us when words and touch can’t. But now shy smiles, crooked grins and lip biting are all hidden behind cloth masks and N95s. And while transparent shields are an option for barriers, there’s just something unappealing about having to flirt through glass.
4. Shaking Hands
My father made us practice firm handshakes. I never perfected mine, and it’s always been a bit of an insecurity for me. Besides your eyes and tone of voice, a handshake can really make or break you. Like, meeting your significant other’s father for the first time, or a job interview, or business meeting. Instead, we will have to settle for subtle head nods and pleasantries — and so will our kids.
5. Playing With A New Friend At The Park
I wanted to be the mother watching her toddler curiously approach another tiny human. I’d feel pride as she or he worked up the courage to make a new friend, share toys and babble. They’d experience that innocence of wonder and the desire for companionship that breaks barriers of speech and familiarity.
I won’t get to see my toddler grab their new friend’s hand and point towards a fleeing monarch or turn and giggle about absolutely nothing.
And I won’t have that memory to share with them when they’re older.
6. Carnival or Mardi Gras
I’m from the Caribbean. We’re unified by food, music and revelry. Once a year, each island has its unique take on Carnival. Some islands have T-shirt Mas, Jouvert and Parade of the Troupes. All include dancing or “chipping” down the road to music in a sea of other strangers. Imagine people donning colorful headdresses made of feathers and jewels, wearing golden leotards and bold makeup. Imagine hundreds of masqueraders dancing through narrow city streets to high tempo soca music with scores of spectators lining the sidewalk to wave them along.
This is just one day of the weeks-long worth of activities for our summer festival. The feeling of losing yourself completely to the music in the sun is one that islanders look forward to each year. COVID-19 meant canceling those activities for 2020. Residents treated Carnival’s absence like the death of a friend. And no one can say for sure what future festivities will look like for generations to come.
7. Barbershop & Hair Salon Therapy Sessions
Typically, barbershops and hair salons are safe spaces for the sexes to vent and seek advice from their peers. Advice for everything from relationship issues to career changes to child-rearing, there is a brotherhood and sisterhood in the chatter of a busy salon. At least, there used to be.
I never had a prom, but I couldn’t wait to prep my kids for theirs. Sure, I would be living vicariously through them. But depending on their class size, they may not be able to experience that moment after all. The process of renting a tux, or finding the perfect dress, or prepping with their friends for a night of fun may soon be the highlight of children’s books shelved next to Cinderella and The Little Mermaid.
Not everyone enjoys cruises. I’m sure you know someone who has a laundry list of reasons for never boarding a ship. Some of those reasons may translate to why cruise lines face possible extinction.
Many people complain that cruises are cramped, too far away from land for comfort and too enclosed to ensure proper sanitation.
Yet, the one time I went on a cruise as a teenager, I rather liked it. I think it’s one of those things everyone should experience at least once in their lives, or at least have the option. But my children may never go on a cruise in their lifetime, at least not in the way I did. Instead, cruises may downsize to yacht excursions curated for small groups who already live or socialize together.
Standing in lines to board a ship, flitting about the deck among scores of strangers, sitting in a dining hall and attending shows in a packed amphitheater may no longer be part of the vacation package for generations to come.
And although many may not appreciate them, our children may never even have the option to decline.
We don’t know what the future holds. “The new normal” may simply be “normal” to our kids. They’ll undoubtedly convince us that the way things used to be were pretty unsanitary anyway and that we’re making a big deal out of nothing.
Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel nostalgia for the memories I’ll never get to make with my little ones anyway. Or, curiosity at how they’d navigate situations as they age. But what I can do is make room for the new and exciting lives they’ll have, no matter how different they may be from my own.