Labor Day always reminds me of New Year's Day--the last hurrah before we all return from holiday to regular life.
And even though I am on vacation this week (and absolutely not working! I turned off all notifications and left instructions to text me in an emergency. I worked double time for weeks to make this one week possible), I cannot help but thinking about what our "new year" will look like.
In many ways, the start of this school year feels like a return to the normal years we had in 2019. All three of my kids will be back for full days; just like they were in until March 2019. But, the difference is in all of us--we've changed. Lily is in high school; Chloe in Middle and Nick in 3rd. And even though they went through the transition from middle to high school and elementary to middle and 1st to 2nd and to 3rd before this year, they did not transition in a "normal" school environment. Lily had another shunt surgery and recovery. I've always worked--but in 2019, I made a shift to more hours and more responsibility. In 2020, I added more work to my plate and then in 2021, even more. Mike always traveled; and while he still does; it is much less than before.
We aren't the same people we were before. We've aged and changed and the world has gone mad in a pandemic. We've been through a change in Presiden's and watched riots and protests over racial inequality and inequity and we've seen the last American leave Afghanistan. But, now, we are suddenly, returning to nearly the place we were before.
It's giving me pause. What will the new normal be like?
I've been in this exact place before. It was August 2007. In August 2006, we took Lily on our first family mini break to Syracuse and Buffalo for a Temple football game, then to Niagara Falls and Ohio to visit family. Eight months later, we'd go on another vacation to Key West, where Lily first began vomiting at random. A month after that: Lily would be diagnosed with a brain tumor. We'd spend a month in the hospital, most of the time in PICU, willing our daughter to live. Then the rest of the summer in Houston for Lily's proton radiation.
In August 2007, I felt the same pause. Lily was scheduled to start Mother's Morning Out. I was supposed to go back to work and traveling. Mike back to his job.
What would this new normal be like?
I can't help but compare the two times in my life. I remember it was really hard to go back to normal. Going to Mother's Morning Out for Lily came with me sobbing on the first day, as the director of the program nearly denied Lily entry citing concerns over "safety" on the preschool playground. It was a moment that I realized this battle--the one where I fought for Lily's inclusion and fought to break fears and ignorance masked as concern--would be forever. The director listened to me and Lily thrived at Mother's Morning Out. I, on the other hand, worried everyday and struggled returning to work and returning to work travel.
Sometimes returning to familiar places, after you've been changed, is much harder than simply going somewhere new. It is like you entering a story you already read and reading the words in a completely different order. Or everyone is calling you by your old name; but you've changed your name and don't remember your original one. You cannot ever really, "go back to normal," when things like cancer or pandemic happens, the old normal is gone and you simply have to wait for the new normal to reveal itself.