Don’t Look Back
As a mom, I spend a decent amount of time remembering my kids’ childhoods. Or at least, trying to piece events together from archaeological evidence--my periodic digs through old photos, school papers and drawings, receipts with someone’s (Rose’s? Evan’s?) adorable sayings scribbled on them. And like archaeologists, a lot of the time my findings are inconclusive and subject to revision (wish I could carbon-date some of this stuff). Alas, my offspring seem equally fuzzy on details…darn it! I was counting on THEM to recall whose third grade teacher was whose!
As a writer, I’m also often in a reflective mood, turning world happenings over in my mind, trying to make some sense of it all. There are periods in history that fascinate me: the Dust Bowl, for instance (as a “relaxed” housekeeper I wonder how long it would have taken me to realize that more than the usual amount of dust was settling over everything), and Elizabethan England (I’m assuming that, in lieu of taking time to bathe, everyone just studied how to say everything in iambic pentameter). What was life like in an ancient Greek city-state? Aboard a Viking ship (the original, not the luxe Viking River Cruises)? I wonder…
But there are certain “looks back” that are just too painful to contemplate for long. My sister Mo’s fatal car accident. My mom’s difficult last years, which coincided with the worst of my mental illness. When I think of these, I get the same sensation as when I poke around at a sore tooth with my tongue. Hurts like heck and does no good whatsoever. I truly understand that I, that we collectively, should never forget the horrors of the Holocaust or the tragedy of Vietnam, lest mankind make the same mistakes again (as mankind is so prone to do). But some memories have a terrible price, in terms of unmanageable emotional distress.
And, while we’re too close now to know, I’m wondering if the pandemic is something I’ll look back on a lot when it finally ends, or becomes endemic, or whatever happens. I re-read the various pieces I wrote, starting very early on (March, 2020), when I was brave and optimistic (we’ll get through this together! We’re caring for each other!) and then in later months, as things dragged on and on, it was pep talk time, with wishful thinking thrown in. (Sure, we’re torn apart as a country by this, but we can do better! We will do better!)
At this point, I’ve run out of words to describe the havoc and suffering and sorrow COVID-19 has caused. I just turned 65, and I don’t want to re-live the past two years for the rest of my life. Personally I know that health issues and the loss of family and friends are in my future anyway, and I want to, need to, find and focus on the joys that remain.
And so, masked, distanced, and, hopefully, wiser, I’ll be looking ahead. And not back.