(Editor’s note: This essay is part of Bethesda Beat’s Coronavirus Chronicles personal essay series. Visit the submission page to learn more.)
We told my son he can’t go to school because people are sick.
“Are my friends sick?”
“No, it’s people we don’t know.”
He thinks for a minute. “Are grandma and grandpa sick?”
“No. They’re fine.”
“Can I still go to their house?”
I feel tears coming, and I blink rapidly. How do you tell a child who will turn three in quarantine that he can’t see his grandparents, who he’s seen nearly every day of his life, because he could accidentally kill them?
“No, honey, not for a little while.”
He asks that question a thousand times a day, but the answers are harder now. We’ve stopped mentioning his birthday party, hoping he will forget about it. Hoping my homemade cake and the presents we’ve stockpiled from Amazon, then scrubbed with all-too-precious Clorox wipes, will be enough to make his birthday special.
Kids are resilient, I tell myself. He’ll only remember how much time we spent with him.
But before he goes to sleep, as we lie together in his big-boy bed purchased before the world changed, he asks if the people will feel better in time for his birthday.
“No. It’ll take longer than that.”
He thinks for a minute, then puts a small hand on my rounded belly. “Will they feel better when the baby comes?”
I blink back tears again. Nothing is certain now, especially with Maryland’s cases predicted to peak around my due date. Will maternity wards still be open? I ask myself. Will my husband be allowed to be there? Will my parents be healthy enough to watch my son for the nights that I’m gone?
“I don’t know,” I tell him. I’ve found that truth is best.
“I hope they will,” he says sleepily.
“Me too, honey. Me too.”
Sara Confino lives in Rockville and teaches English and journalism at Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg.
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