“It was the small things that helped, taken one by one and savored.” -British Writer Rumer Godden
Hello. When media referred to 2020 as the new roaring twenties, I don’t think any of us expected a decade full of promise to unfold like this.
We’ve come together as a global community, and yet, we are in isolation; individual trees standing in a forest, bracing ourselves on a tidal wave of fear, flux, and uncertainty. There are victories, of course, and countless heroes to hail, but losses, anxiety, and frustration, too. As a Steel Magnolia southern gal who is good at holding it together, I did. Until I didn’t.
My COVID-19 journey began in Panama when Honduras shuttered itself on short notice. Overnight, exiled from my life. Air, sea, and land borders closed; no loophole, no way back- to my child, my husband, my dog, my house. In disbelief, I bought a one-way ticket to the States, praying for the world, praying for this to be over. What was happening? No one really knew. “It’s unprecedented,” I kept hearing in a sea of disturbing news about lack of ventilators, bankruptcies, and death statistics, like a bad science fiction film.
In a sundress and flip-flop clad feet, I landed woefully unprepared onto Atlanta soil that was cold and rainy. Hartsfield International Airport, one of the busiest in the world, was apocalyptic; tomb-like, except for officials wearing masks and gloves, urging us to social distance and move rapidly. Passport control and baggage claim took an uncanny eighteen minutes.
Phone calls were made to friends and family who, ultimately, could not take me in, could not hug me when I desperately needed it most. I understood but was lost and floating. This was not like coming home. Unprecedented, indeed.
I am forever grateful to dear friends who risked their health to welcome me into their house, providing me with warm clothes, a homemade meal, a place to sleep. For days, cracked and frazzled, I fell apart, letting the tears flow freely. I gave myself permission to not be strong, to not be okay, to surrender to a situation that was never in my control anyway.
Pacing like a wolf, irrationally pondering what laws I could break to get back to my family, I could not sleep, could not concentrate, or get my bearings. After ten days of conversations about Ramsay maybe flying alone, emergency flights that were canceled, and what to do with the dog, a C-130 aircraft got out of Honduras, thanks to effortful coordination by our Embassy community.
I helped Brad and Ramsay pack over the phone the night before. Just knowing my clothes were nestled next to theirs in a shared suitcase made me happier somehow. Brad texted just before take-off: “Engines turning. Doors closed. En route to Norfolk!” And then, hours later, “Just landed. Everyone cheered. Grateful Crowd.”
After two more connecting flights for them, I fell to my knees at the small, local airport as I held my child, sobbing, and hugged my husband, wanting to tie them to my body to keep them close. A Fort Benning soldier watching us put a hand to his heart and smiled through his tears. Ramsay excitedly told me about the military flight. “We sat on those things, like backpack strings- they were seats! And to get on, the whole back of the plane opened up and it was so wide, I bet four cars could park in there!”
I woke up in the night and saw them both sleeping there. Tears of joy ran down my cheeks. I wrote in my journal later, “it’s like they were teetering on a tight rope, dangling, and I was holding my breath. Now they’re here. Thank you, God. I’ve never been happier to look for frogs at the crack of dawn than with Rams this morning.”
Shaken up, we focused on being together, safe, and healthy, not taking it for granted, as Brad would have to return. We crafted a temporary plan. Like so many families, we are now learning to adapt to living apart in two countries. We are learning the ropes for online school, discovering what works in quarantine and doesn’t, trusting our own wisdom amid constantly changing dynamics. We attempt to be kinder and more patient with ourselves and others, remembering that each day is a gift. One never knows what twists and turns are up ahead.
After several weeks, our hearts and bodies are slowly healing with rest, healthy eating, and embracing the positives. We are more careful and conscious of the information we absorb. And the silver lining is that we are:
- living more in the present
- practicing gratitude in earnest
- enjoying quality time with my mother
- reading more books
- sitting on the porch, slowing down and not glorifying “being busy”
- playing more board games
- finding reasons to laugh
- taking more walks, bike rides, and online yoga classes
- making more art
- observing the beauty of Spring and savoring the small things
“On the other side of your fear is your freedom.”- American writer Jen Sincero
What are your coping tools and strategies on this unprecedented journey?
Sending you peace, along with prayers for health and well-being.
You have a wonderful way with words. I enjoyed your journey!
Thank you, Sharon! Love to you and George.
You are an amazing artist with words and camera. I love reading your exploits.
Thank you for reading them! Hope you have been staying well during the pandemic.
Seize the day, the hour, the moment. Glad to have your poignant prose to confirm your resilient grace under pressure. So happy you are all safely reunited and with your loving mother. Our briefest chat last weekend at Linwood reminds me that life goes on for those who can go with the flow as graciously as she has always done.