I sit in the backseat of our pickup truck, lodged between a baby carrier and booster seat, for the 17-hour odyssey to see my mother and 96-year-old grandmother.
Our family of five decided to take this voyage a week before school started in case schools would reopen, in case COVID numbers skyrocketed, in case my grandmother would be taken during or by the pandemic.
The kids think it is another adventure—same as the Spring Break that turned into the eternal summer; same as the summer void of camps and swim team and play dates, but full of at-home craft projects and new bikes. We spent endless hours, day after day, under the Texan sun, in fatigued togetherness.
As a mother and only daughter, I feel lodged between two worlds:
In one world, I am holding space for my children as they navigate these increased and intense virtual times while mourning (possibly unknowingly) their truncated elementary school years.
In the other world, I am resigning to the fact that COVID-19 cannot be contained and may take our loved ones prematurely. Even if people were sick or autoimmune comprised before, there wasn’t the additional coronavirus threat. I am now rushing to see my mother and grandmother before a potential school year of virtual learning.
The kids will be okay. With time and conversation, both of which we will have on the 17-hour road trip, they will know they are loved and safe. They will miss their school—these central spaces in our communities where friendships are forged, activities are plentiful, and personal growth is consequential. Our school spaces represented innocence where our children would buy pencils and bookmarks at the book fairs and run around with silly string at the school carnival. They were a right of passage, transitioning from a life of dependency and shelter to a life of independence and exploration.
But here we are. Home again. And questioning it all.
Motherhood has me coming back to this word: lodged. I feel lodged between having a business I loved that closed in June and being a homeschooling mom. I used to laugh at those homeschooling moms when perhaps in reality I felt incapable of the task both emotionally and mentally.
I feel lodged between embracing my privilege of being able to stay home with my children and having the bandwidth to take action to help those in need. I feel lodged between friends who are pushing for schools to reopen and friends who are terrified and have been home since March. I feel lodged between helping our kids become more independent while they are attached to us now more than ever.
And then there are the goodbyes. Goodbyes we must say to the way things were and goodbyes to our parents who live 17 hours away. Goodbyes to our grandparents who were fragile prior to COVID. Goodbyes to our dream jobs and to financial independence.
The kids will be okay. Us mothers? We will be lodged here for some time.
But one thing that we know in our beings—motherhood has prepared us to begin again, to birth and emerge over and over again.