Every morning I receive memory notifications from my photo and social media apps. Some days they’re of family adventures like past birthday parties when my girls were babies, or carnival rides with my sweet tall husband sitting scrunched in a tiny ferris wheel with our three-year-old across from him. Lately, they’re photos of trips we took and events we attended in 2019 and early 2020.
At first, there’s always my shock and disagreement that Google and social media accounts consider these “recent” photos “past” memories. I stare at my girls’ faces, much younger than today, with gaping holes in their mouths from missing teeth that have now grown, or wearing a princess dress that no longer fits and was recently donated. I’m sadly reminded of how far away those moments actually are, and I solemnly acknowledge that yes, those are faraway past memories. It’s now 2022.
I still feel as if we’re stranded in some time portal of March 2020 and that my now eight- and six-year-old daughters are still five and seven. And yet, holy moly, ready-or-not, it’s now 2022. We’ve all grown, including myself, who lately has to do the math to try and remember what age I’m turning (maybe this isn’t a pandemic-related thing though, but a subconscious-mid-30-year-old-blockout?).
I stare longingly at these photo memories from September 2019 or January 2020. My family’s happy faces gaze back at me during some crowded event, on some beautiful island somewhere, or in the middle of the Caribbean Sea dancing while holding hands with Mickey Mouse. I usually smile, reminiscing about that exact moment, remembering how much fun it was, or laughingly thinking about how much time that costume took to prepare.
Lately though, these photos also make my eyes sadly well up with tears. I stare at all of our faces, younger, including my own that now shows faster wear and tear, and sadly think about just how much adventure time the pandemic has taken away.
Has a Chunk of My Kids’ Childhoods Been Taken Away by the Pandemic?
I’ll note my family is very blessed to not have the experience of losing a loved one to COVID, as this overrides any other pandemic complaint. Obviously for that, I’m immensely grateful. But like many parents, when our lives came to a halt back in March 2020, so did many family adventures with our kids. They’re only this little for so long. They’re only home with us for so much longer.
I wonder if the next time we set foot on a Disney cruise ship, whether my eight-year-old will hug Cinderella as if she’s meeting her lifelong idol. Will she still believe in pixie dust and magic? Last year she asked me why Santa Claus wrapped the gifts in the same wrapping paper we owned. While I should have had the foresight and hidden the paper, I realized she’s growing and catching on. The magic is slowly fading.
Maybe Not as Much as I Fear…
But there are other moments from my real-life memory makers — a.k.a. my children — and the photo memories from the apps sometimes, which remind me that some of the best family adventures ever were handed to us as a result of the pandemic. Recently my six-year-old asked me why we don’t do game and movie nights multiple times a week anymore. I told her that we could do that during quarantine time when we had nowhere to be at 8:00 a.m. Sticking to a strict bedtime routine then was off the table in our house, like in many others. After our scheduled school and work Zoom meetings, we’d spend hours in the evening playing board games, watching movies and Netflix together. These evenings usually followed a meal we cooked together in the kitchen.
We haven’t cooked as a family regularly in a while. And while cleaning out some of their toys recently, I stumbled upon a limited edition Monopoly game I’d purchased during quarantine. We haven’t played it since then, but used to enjoy it immensely. As I held it, the memories of playing with my family on the floor came rushing back to me. Each of us tried laughingly hard to outwin the other. We had nowhere else to go on that quarantine Saturday, and so we took our time playing.
I Actually Miss the Endless Indoor Family Adventures of Quarantine
Now, as we slowly reenter the world and dip our toes back into society, I miss those long Saturdays (and Mondays and Tuesdays). We had nothing to do but make cozy indoor memories with our families. It was as magical as the two weeks of winter break or a snow day in the middle of the work week (that, true, became never-ending). Today as I clean our quiet home while my girls are at school, and hold that forgotten Monopoly game in my hand, I realize they weren’t deprived of magical family adventures after all. And it’s my six-year-old’s pestering for more of these moments that solidify this notion.
Let’s Keep the Adventures Going
The pandemic taught us to balance life within and outside of our homes. We value more greatly the spaces we’re in — physically in our dwellings, and spiritually within our timeline of life. Many of us used to work long hours outside of the house, barely seeing our children. Yet today, almost every single profession has found a way to make “work from home” possible. We can at least peek in on them during lunch breaks.
We’re also choosing to invest more in entertainment spaces on our properties. We now see the greater value in these investments for our families. As an example, backyard swimming pools and home movie theaters rose exponentially within the past year. This includes my own home, as we currently put the finishing touches on our theater room as well. Friday family movie/dessert night is now a much-looked-forward-to tradition for us that absolutely cannot be missed. It’s also one my girls affectionately call “Family Cuddle Time.”
So while I fear my daughter might not be of the age to believe in pixie dust and magic anymore, I know she believes in the magic at home more than ever. Maybe, I’d otherwise had to have worked much harder to create this during our busy on-the-go lives. I realize we’ve actually been given a gift in the form of time.
The “quarantine generation” — we’ll call them “Generation Q” for fun — is the only one (or so we genuinely hope) that will ever know what it’s like to feel the magical touches of seeing Cinderella’s castle up close as well as the magical touches of cuddle time with a parent all day, every day. And I’m planning to soak up all the cuddle time magical hugs while I still can.