May 20, 2020. That date on my paper calendar has sported an asterisk for over a year. Written underneath the date in pen—something I rarely use on a calendar—are the words Z and T graduation. Z and T are my twins, my oldest children, the first of their siblings to experience something as monumental as a high school graduation. But graduation will look a little different this year. The girls won’t be able to march across the stage and grasp hands with the school principal. They won’t receive their diploma from their advisory teacher, a man they’ve spent the first twenty minutes of each and every school day with for the last four years. They won’t huddle with friends as family members look on, snap selfies in their graduation caps and gowns, or reminisce about school memories with their soon-to-be former classmates. And graduation hugs? Not this year.
While I’m not one to be sentimental, I can’t help but think that these kids from the class of 2020 will be affected by the lack of closure, by this change in the usual graduation ritual. Years from now, they won’t be talking about the sparkling speeches or the stuffiness of the arena, the inadequate sound system or the teacher who just couldn’t hold it together. Instead, they’ll mention face masks, virtual classrooms, first responders, and armed protests as well as flutters of anxiety, moments of ennui, and stretches of discontent.
And the stories they write? They’ll be shaped by the present pandemic as well. Their narratives will be different from what we’ve seen before.
But the stories we—their parents—will write may also be different. For we, too, have been impacted in unimaginable ways. It’s those stories that will help us record this living history, to help us heal, to help us move forward, no matter what life might be like down the road. Keep sharing your stories; we will too.
My Mother’s Last Election by Johanna Wald
Bouncing Off Rock Bottom by Deborah Serra
Images by Dan Dennis, Dewang Gupta, Angele Kamp, Tim Marshall, Patrice Puig, and Element5Digital.