And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Olivia is 20 years old now. She’s a college sophomore. I look at her and think about how I was her age when I married for the first time.
She’s been on break from school since right before Christmas. It’s been an odd break. Usually, college kids are out and about, seeing friends from high school, going to movies, going bowling, meeting at each other’s houses, dating, goofing off, having fun. COVID has meant a very limited supply of these things. Mostly, she’s been in her room, drawing, writing, watching videos, interacting with her friends via social media. When she returns to school at the end of January, she will wear a mask and attend some classes in plexiglass-partitioned classrooms. She’ll attend other classes from her dorm room, sitting at her desk, staring at her computer screen. In the dining hall, she will eat at one end of a six-foot table, and one other person will eat at the other end. There are very few social gatherings, but some are held, mostly outside around a bonfire, or inside, masked and distanced. Last year, when she was in her first semester freshman year, pre-COVID, she was the friend with a car, and so she was always out and about, going to the mall, going to Target, going to Starbucks.
Not so, now.
So this week, her best friend from college came over for a good old-fashioned sleepover. It made me think of sleepovers of the past…
*elementary school, probably second or third grade, a group of girls gathered for Olivia’s birthday. Michael and I hid out upstairs, and one little girl, who constantly wanted something, a drink, something to eat, a different show on television, world peace, stood at the bottom of the steps and yelled, over and over again, “Olivia’s mom! Olivia’s mom!”
*middle school, sleepovers with two best friends, one whose voice we didn’t hear for over a year, and the other, who made up for it with statements like, “I think I would like to have blue hair when I grow up, and I want to sparkle.”
*high school, a variety of friends, sleepovers disappearing behind Olivia’s bedroom door instead of out in the living room, whispers about boys, coming out in wild make-up, songs played off YouTube. When I woke up at 4:00, the giggles, the whispers, still rose from the floor below.
And now this new sleepover, with a best college friend, in a time spent mostly inside.
They did go out for a bit, to spend the friend’s gift cards from Christmas. They wore masks, they paid attention where they stood, they came home.
Michael and I hid out again. From the living room came the sound of video games and movies, cabinets opening and closing, the fridge flapping like a revolving door.
And giggling. Lots and lots of giggling. No matter where I was, that lilting sound drifted up the stairs and followed me.
When I shut down for the night at 3:00 a.m., the lights were still on, the giggles still rose.
I went to bed that night, feeling surrounded by the familiar. There is still laughter. There is still a daughter who smiles.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.