This has been one unbelievable year. Like many of you, mine has been an upside-down roller coaster…a lowering of standards while at the same time trying to hold on to what’s essential.
Dinners together. A walk outside if it’s not too smoky. Birthday celebrations. Finishing another chapter.
Honestly, every time I think about sitting down and composing an email to you, I’m gripped with the sensation, Who the heck cares about this? People are swimming in the news. Drowning, maybe.
And yet I have something to say. Even if it’s just a sliver of goodness.
Tapping into my favorite loves from decades of teaching (reading aloud, puppetry, and songs), I’ve been entertaining my youngest set of grandchildren. My goal is to make them feel loved and seen. To make sure they know their thoughts and interests are important. What I didn’t expect was how their voices would lift me up.
Case in point, my four-year-old granddaughter Maya. A couple days ago, we were hanging out on FaceTime as her mommy got some much-needed relief time to make dinner – and I babysat. Picture bubbly Maya and me, puppets in hand – right up to our phone screens (hers, a fantastically festooned bird named Kevin – and mine, a blue-caped wizard named Gnomey).
The puppets were conversing when suddenly Maya put hers down and moved in close, her voice serious. “Nanna, let’s go have a chat.” A prick of worry stabbed me.
“Okay,” I said, my screen a jumble as Maya padded across the room to her bed, lifted the comforter, and snuggled underneath bringing Mommy’s phone – and me into her cave, her adorable face is so close I could see up her nostrils.
She began, her voice uncertain. “Nanna? Can you see me?”
“Yes.” If I’d been there, I would have tickled her.
She moved closer. All I could see were her dark eyes. Those amazing eyelashes! “Do you like being under here with me?”
“Mmm..hm! So cozy!” I purred.
Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Nanna, will you come over after the sickness ends?” Her reference to Covid seemed so reasonable. Then her voice shook a little. “I miss you.”
“Of course!” I swallowed hard at the sweetness of this moment, at how generous and caring her words were, how adaptable she is in this bizarre new world. And in that instant, I felt the warmth of hope as we sang “Peace Like a River” to each other, her voice, perfection in the darkness.
Vanya is the award-winning author of Boot Language. She’s spent decades teaching writing as well as mentoring educators in the oldest, continuously used schoolhouse in California. Her essays have appeared in a dozen literary journals and anthologies. Find out more about Vanya at www.vanyaerickson.com.