Kid Wistfully Recalls Events of Early Pandemic
“Cheddar cheese and bacon” emerges from fog of distant past
Once, while Laurea was working on an arduous month-long event, I spent an unusual amount of time alone with Kina during the week. As a special tradition during that month, Kina and I would stroll to the local coffee shop in the morning for a breakfast sandwich, singing “cheddar cheeeeese and baaaaacon” as she scooted down the sidewalk in her Hello Kitty helmet. We’d sit outside under an umbrella and share our sandwich as she drank her orange juice and I drank my coffee, looking at the bees and having little conversations. It is one of our favorite mutual memories, and when Kina brought it up this morning at breakfast, I thought back on that time as being so peaceful and unburdened, in the days before the pandemic, when Kina was so small.
Except it wasn’t before the pandemic. The event Laurea was working on was fully remote, and the coffee shop only had outdoor seating, and Kina was home with me because she didn’t have school. It was, in fact, only a year ago, which feels like ten years ago, which is impossible, because Kina is only four.
The weird thing about drawing this newspaper for as long as I have is that I now have a record of all the things that happen in eighteen months of a kid’s life. A very small fraction of those things, when you write them down on paper, will fill five archival boxes—far more space, you might think, than should be required for eighteen months of charming childhood recollections. My brain can’t conceive of that much life (and everything else that I have taken great pains not to write about in that same period) fitting into less than two years. It can’t conceive of how this pandemic could stretch on for so long, nor of how Kina might form, in that time, the kinds of long-term memories that you have to close your eyes to recall. It seems like it must be a long time ago, because eighteen months isn’t usually a long time in adult years. Turns out it is in kid years.
In twelve days, Kina will start kindergarten. When we were singing “cheddar cheese and bacon”, she hadn’t yet started pre-K. She’s had a whole year of school pass us by, and a new president, and at least two shoe sizes. Around the same time as today, one year ago, I marked Kina’s height on the door jamb by the kitchen. I measured her again yesterday, and she is four inches taller now. No matter how hard I try, I can’t imagine her four inches shorter than she is, though I know intuitively that she must have been. Maybe it’s that I can’t imagine that she’s as tall as she actually is, and I see her even today as the same three-year-old she was before this all started.
I have no way of knowing if memory is also this strange for parents of non-pandemic four-year-olds; everything that happened more than six months ago feels like a different life. This was supposed to be the end of it, my brain keeps telling me, but it all looks the same, and so it casts everything that happened last year in the light of the Before Times—even though we were just as scared then and had the old president and no vaccines. It’s weird to be wistful for the pandemic as it still rages all around us. Maybe, down the line, I’ll forget it ever happened. All the fear will be stripped away, and I’ll only remember the scooter and the sandwich and my little girl asking about the bees. That’s what the paper is for, after all; I have no need for the rest of it.