If we’re lucky, the hardest thing we’ve had to do during the pandemic is cope. That’s what New York City essayist and public relations consultant Bob Brody wrote about in a touching letter to his granddaughter, Lucia Antonia.
Dear Lucia Antonia,
You’re only two-and-a-half years old, but you probably suspect something strange is going on. You have no idea what it is or what to call it. But you sense it. You sense with all your being that almost everything is different now.
Why? That’s what you must be wondering, maybe without even realizing you’re wondering. Why do we all stay home so much?
Before, you went more places. Nearby towns. Restaurants. Stores. The zoo. You saw your aunts and uncles and family friends. Then that suddenly stopped.
Everything changed. No dinner guests come to your house anymore. You never see other kids like you around. Now you never go to the supermarket anymore and mommy and daddy are wearing masks and so is everyone else. Where have all the mouths and noses gone? You can no longer see lips moving as someone speaks. How will you learn how to move your mouth to talk?
Everyone is acting different now. Once in a while mommy looks at you with a certain sadness in her eyes. It’s as if she’s telling you she’s sorry. She’s sorry you’re having to grow up where everyone wears masks and keeps a distance from everyone else and stays at home and needs to get a vaccine and no one hugs anymore and who knows who will be next to go to a hospital and die. You’re more easily frustrated and frightened.
Mommy. That’s something that’s stayed the same. You’re almost always with mommy. She does everything with you. Brings you the food she makes. Changes your diaper. Reads to you and teaches you words and numbers and dances with you and takes you out for walks with your new German Shepherd puppy named Luna and puts you to sleep.
Mommy was there before and mommy is there now. She takes care of you. With mommy you always feel safe. She is your everything and you are hers.
Daddy is there, too. You hear his car pull up outside and you go to the window and you know he’s home and you run to the door so you can fling yourself into his arms and kiss him hello.
Grandma lives in the house, too. And she’s just like mommy, except she never runs around with you outside.
Grandma does everything with you, too. You snuggle with her and laugh with her. You have no idea her own mother was the same, doing everything with her. Grandma lost her mommy 22 years ago and still misses her and wishes she could see you. Your middle name, Antonia, comes from her.
Grandma always looks at you as if she’s saying she would do more for you if she could. She would wave a wand to make the pandemic go away so you could see all the mouths again and eat in restaurants and bask in the admiring stares from people at the tables nearby.
Once in a while you look at mommy and you see her eyes are wet and shiny and the wet is dribbling down her face and her lips are pressed together and her cheeks are turning red and she’s breathing differently. You would call this gasping and sobbing if you knew those words.
And you know why mommy is crying. She would never cry just for herself anymore. No. she’s crying for you. She, too, is asking why. Why is this happening to my first and only child? How is this fair? What’s wrong with the world? Who let this happen?
Where should I place the blame?
You will be okay. This I know. Indeed, you will blossom. You will flower into a garden unto yourself.
Meantime, your grandpa is still in New York City working. You last saw me in person 15 months ago. I’m the one who sends you videos of myself singing songs to you.
But I’m coming over there. I just need to tie up some loose ends.
Then I’ll get on a plane that will go high into the sky and cross the Atlantic Ocean. And I’ll be staying, too. And we’ll all be together again. It will be magic.
Bob’s memoir is, “Playing Catch with Strangers: A Family Guy (Reluctantly) Comes of Age.”