Reprinted from the October 2020 issue of Columbus Monthly
In the spring, my 14-year-old son was confirmed as a new member of our church. This is usually an extravagant service, filled with pomp and circumstance, but the coronavirus pandemic forced us to improvise this year. Instead, my son and other members of his confirmation class were honored in a virtual ceremony, with parents anointing their children with sacred oil in their homes while our pastor offered blessings via Zoom.
Back then, I wondered if the church was being a bit hasty. If we pushed back the service to the fall, perhaps we could all gather together again in our neo-Gothic sanctuary in Downtown Columbus, and my son and his fellow confirmands could experience the traditional grand welcome in front of the entire congregation. But here we are beginning the fall, and the pandemic’s end is nowhere in sight, and new rites of passage are being disrupted. For their traditional first-day-of-school photos in September, both my son and his 11-year-old sister posed in front of their computers. Both started new scholastic chapters—high school for him, middle school for her—but neither will experience the new environments in person for the time being.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
It’s easy to feel frustrated right now—and I certainly do a lot of the time, especially as a resident of the University District, where too many Ohio State students welcomed the start of the fall semester with large parties in defiance of social-distancing rules. But despair and despondency are no way to go through life—the guiding principle behind our “Fall Fun” feature, a collection of more than 30 ways to find enjoyment during a difficult time, from safe day trips to home-decorating ideas.
That generous attitude also guided my children during their first day of virtual school. They were enthusiastic, helpful and ready to learn, doing their best to figure out this new reality while also treating others with grace. My daughter’s middle school started the day with a schoolwide online assembly. Technical difficulties hampered this effort. Administrators discovered their Zoom subscription limited the number of participants, and the principal’s computer crashed, leaving the assembly without its main speaker. As the principal tried to log back on, my daughter told me later, one teacher forgot to mute and told the whole assembly, “I haven’t had enough coffee for this stuff.” Except she didn’t say stuff.
Naturally, a few people laughed, my daughter said, but no one really cared. Stuff happens, as they say, and we all need to make the best of it.