By Billy Liggett
There were 20 cars lined up along the street in my neighborhood on March 26 — balloons and streamers tied to side mirrors, posters taped to the doors and “happy birthday” wishes shoe polished on the windshields.
Inside several of the cars — families I’ve known since I moved to Sanford nearly 13 years ago. Families whose children have grown up with my children. And in other cars — people I barely know, but who know (and love) Henry, my youngest who turned 6 on that day.
Henry’s sixth birthday fell on Week 3 of a global pandemic. We originally had plans to invite him and a gaggle of friends to celebrate in a gymnastics facility. Three weeks ago, there was nothing wrong with such an idea.
A lot has happened in three weeks. But you don’t need me to tell you that.
Henry’s birthday was spent at home with his parents and two siblings. It featured three separate songs from his classmates, his sister’s classmates and his family delivered via Facebook messenger and Google Classroom.
And best of all, it featured a parade. A 20-car parade, led by a Lee County Sheriff’s deputy and featuring close friends, neighbors and teachers. They honked horns, they tossed beads and candy and one family even pulled over to perform for my son on instruments (from a safe distance, of course). When it ended, my son was beaming and couldn’t believe something like that came together “just for me.”
I’ve seen several silver linings in these extremely cloudy last few weeks. I see them when my kids’ teachers conduct their online classes or when they’ve led their own parades through the neighborhoods they educate for. I see them in the men and women handing out meals at our schools to families who are grateful for them. Or in the health care professionals working overtime and risking themselves for the greater good.
I see them in all of us who are taking this “social distancing” thing to heart. We’re a nation full of people sacrificing their way of life and their income to not only protect ourselves, but our loved ones and complete strangers as well.
We could all use these silver linings. The scientists and doctors out there — those we should be listening to, by the way — say we’ve yet to peak when it comes to cases and deaths. Those who seem to know less are pushing us to hurry back to “normal” for the economy’s sake. These are scary, uncertain times, and the light at the end of this tunnel isn’t in focus yet.
But I believe when it’s all said and done, and we’re back at work or at our favorite social hubs, we’ll be better because of this. In the short term, at least, we’ll appreciate more things like birthday parties, restaurants and even hugs from friends.
I’ll look back on this unique time in my life and remember my wife taking over and homeschooling my children or the creative ways we entertained ourselves while stuck inside.
And most of all, I’ll remember that parade. And that smile. I wish those kind of moments on all of us.
Billy Liggett is stuck at home for the foreseeable future. Email him at email@example.com if you’d like to be distantly social.
COVID-19 STORIES IN OUR APRIL EDITION
- The virus’ effect on our local economy
- The changing face of local education
- A hit to the local restaurant and bar industry
- New concerns for local law enforcement
- Abrupt end to a promising Southern Lee baseball season
- A family on the frontlines
- Column: There’s good to be found in these tough times
- Column: Finding comfort in Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’