My 4-year-old and I were talking about running and I was telling her about different sports she can try if she wants to one day, like track, swim team, crew team, volleyball, tennis, softball, etc.
Violet said, “Well, I think I just want to do pie-eating contest.”
When I was in second grade, starting out at a new school, my mom asked me if I wanted to play T-ball.
“It’s a way to make friends,” Mom insisted. “And it’s good exercise.”
After about 20 seconds of serious contemplation, I asked Mom if I could just read books after school instead.
Whenever I got antsy reading inside our trailer in the woods, I wandered into the trees and built a fort where I swept the ground down to dirt with bundled up tree branches. Inside my fort, I’d mark out a bedroom where I sat reading Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls, or, later, Mary Higgins Clark while swatting away mosquitoes out in the fresh air.
Violet and I have been home since the fourth of March. She has drawn over 400 pictures. I have read 13 and a half books. We have sent 62 pieces of mail to our friends. A section of our yard has become a fairy garden. I gained 10 pounds and then lost five. We have both watched way too much TV.
Back in March, it felt like I’d been worried forever by the time my friends and family caught up, before the shut-downs started. A mom at preschool laughed when I said I hoped we weren’t all about to die.
“You’re worried? About this?”
It wasn’t an appropriate thing for me to say during drop-off, where I usually showed up wearing a Hello Kitty shirt or a rainbow dress, carefully censoring myself down to a cheerful, early childhood level. But sometimes, especially when I’m worried or scared, things fall out of my mouth before I can think.
That day, as everyone sang and laughed, their mouths open wide, sitting close together on the colorful carpet or standing side by side at the edge, I felt like I was the only one able to see the ghost in the room. I glanced at the unperturbed mom and grasped at a straw, hoping she was right and I was paranoid, like my own mother, who to this day can’t have a conversation with me that’s not riddled with panic and nerves, forever warning me of danger looming all around. I remind Mom that in the 1980s she let me wander off into the woods alone. “Things were different back then,” she says.
As I write this, the global death count from COVID-19 is at 694,287. The kids have to start school on their computers. T-ball is no longer an option.
I can’t believe that this has gone on so long, that there seems to be no end in sight.
I worry my daughter is turning feral in isolation. The fart jokes never end. Yesterday she wore her underwear as a hat and sprinted around the living room naked, bending over to yell, “Mooned you, Mom!”
Violet’s dad jokes about our future parent-teacher conferences.
“Violet is a very clever girl,” the teacher will say. “She’s ahead in reading and math, but she distracts her friends in class with inappropriate stories and language.”
“Fart jokes?” Kenny will ask.
“It goes beyond that.”
“We’re so sorry!” We will apologize. “We blame COVID!”
After 147 days cooped up at home, we ventured out to meet our friends at their private beach. Violet and her small friend giggled and kicked up a million sand fleas. They swam and splashed and collected shells and rocks. They did not stay 6 feet apart.
I pulled Violet aside to remind her to keep her distance. She rolled her green eyes and said, “Mom, we’re just having fun!”
The girls’ smiles overrode the buzzing of my internal alarm. At the end of the day, Violet tried to hug her friend goodbye. When I stopped her, she yelled, “But Mom! I touched Ella a million times today!”
Violet’s dad and I apologized as everyone laughed. I worried we might not get invited back. Violet cried the whole way home.
“I want this coronavirus to be dead!” she screamed, her small face scrunched up all angry and red.
“I know, honey. Me too.”
As we pulled into the driveway, with our dark blue house and our woods filled with fairy gardens, small statues, wildflower coves and forts, I said to Violet, “That was a really fun day, huh?”
She scowled at me in the rearview. With her arms crossed, her bottom lip pouting, and her long noodle of a leg kicking the center console, she said, “It was the best day of my whole life.”
Krisa Bruemmer lives in Vaughn.