“It is what it is,” the late, great Tim Moraski said after my son was benched mid-inning in the middle of a baseball tournament. You know, the stakes-are-high kind of tournament at which college scouts swarmed.
I could have confronted the coach. But anyone who knows Coach Leon knows that that tactic wouldn’t have gone over real well. I could have placated my little baseball star with dinner at Fuddrucker’s, and probably did. I could have jumped ship, giving up my prestigious Team Mother position, which I didn’t. Or, I could have just bought into Tim Moraski’s ever-calming candor and repeat his mantra in tumultuous times, which I did. And still do.
Tim didn’t coin the phrase. As a matter of fact, it was so commonplace that I came across an It is What it Is T-shirt in a mail-order catalog and sent to him anonymously. Now, a lifetime later, the words have resurfaced as both a dis and a dose of reality in today’s covid-cluttered political arena. But, to me, it’s still as bi-partisan a sentiment as the Serenity Prayer, silently uttered to help us get through the trying times.
No matter which side of the party line you’re toeing, these are indeed trying times. Covid-19 has spent the last six months snatching away our schools and sports, celebrations and ceremonies. And while many people are feeling a newfound sense of freedom as they’ve learned to navigate the ways and means of the virus, I think it was much, much easier in the beginning when the lines weren’t quite as blurred. Back when a trip to the grocery store was both an outing and an ordeal. When we were zooming with long-lost middle-school friends and playing Boggle after family dinner with spouses we had barely seen in the past 30 years. When we all just stayed home like we were told.
My faraway friends mock the me I’ve become. I was always one to throw caution to the wind, to leave the umbrella at home, to go on a cruise the week the world closed down. Now I cringe when they suggest a weekend away and they teasingly promise they’ll all wear PPE and institute hourly temperature checks. Of course they won’t. And of course I’ll go. I’ve long suffered from the fear of missing out.
But, I try to explain, it’s not my fault that I’ve got a touch of Covid fear in me. Living in the nation’s first epicenter did it to me. No one within a stone’s throw of Teaneck, New Jersey has ever so much as whispered the word hoax in conjunction with Covid. Our friends were sick. Our friends were hospitalized. Our friends were dying. We were scared. We were traumatized. But we were united. We shared toilet paper and jigsaw puzzles. We got cookies from neighbors and fed the elderly. We dropped paperback books on our friends’ porches and forwarded town texts about the rising, then falling numbers. We placed bets on when the world would reopen and we were all off by months. We cheered in July when the email blast said NO Covid cases in Holy Name Hospital! It was both a blessing and a curse to be literally face-to-face with this virus.
I am so thankful that Covid hit when it did. I have said no less than 10,000 times how lucky I am that I don’t have a kid missing their high school prom, their college graduation, or their wedding. I am so, so fortunate not to have to entertain adolescents, hawk-eye teenagers, or rally for in-person, or virtual classrooms. I am so happy that I am not a 22 year-old who would surely be at one of those 200-person parties, that my hard-working spouse is still working hard, and that I have enough work to sustain my chocolate habit. I praise my new knees and freelance freedom that allow me to go for hours-long bike rides and walks, have lunch on my mother’s deck with my Pennsylvania people, and paddle in Kathy’s pool with Holly and Ann who graciously allow me to repeat, and re-repeat, from six feet away, the stories that the people I live with 24/7 won’t.
When I have a cocktail or ten with Jean and Tom, when Claire comes by for a sit on my front porch, when I talk and text with Mary Anne, Lisa, my sisters, the daughter, when I collude with the college girls, the high school girls, the local girls, the church ladies, the writer’s group, the book club — the conversation always comes back to Covid.
I scroll through social media way more than I ever did, cringing when I see ten unrelated humans arm-in-arm, holding red Solo cups in the Caribbean Sea. I wince when I witness a group leaning in for a picture at a picnic table. I furrow my brow as people travel from coast-to-coast, completely oblivious to the concept of quaranting.
And the truth is, I’m not even a Covid fanatic. I have taken my share of risks. I participated in a crowded Black Lives Matter march, I visited my college friends who had been here, there, and everywhere. I spent the day at a lake with eight other people, five of whom had just flown in from red hot states. I have friends who chide me for my mask-free backyard socials, for not wiping down groceries, for using public bathrooms.
Yet, my fingers ache from all the responses I’ve written, and promptly erased. All the “So much for social distancing!” All the “You know, this is why the virus is still spreading.” All the snarky, judgmental remarks that are swirling through my head. Because we are all, every one of us, making up our own rules, pushing our Covid comfort zones, and just hoping for the best.
And to be perfectly honest, I’m just plain jealous.
I want to go to the shore and stay in a cheesy motel with a polyester bedspread. I want to walk on a crowded boardwalk and ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl without being sprayed with sanitizer. I want to eat at a table-clothed restaurant and chide the waitperson for forgetting my extra glass of ice. I want to fly to California and meet my grand-puppy, Rocky. I want to go to a party where I don’t know a single soul. I want to be simply grossed out, but not terrified, when a mask-less runner hawks up a loogie at my feet. I want to go see a play, sit alone in a movie theater, and make the mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving at Emily’s. I want to bring back our annual Christmas bash, socialize without asking, “Masks or no?” and walk in any direction I please in the supermarket aisles.
I want to go to Charleston, play mahjong with Susan and Janice, do a Woolley weekend. I want people to walk in my house unannounced again. I want to belly laugh with Theresa and Karen, go to Outback with the Hargraves, walk in Overpeck with Grace, meet the daughter in a Brooklyn bar, check out Madge’s new digs, and play hearts at Bob’s lake house.
I want to go on a cruise with Patty, laugh my way through Aquacize class with Cynthia, go to a wedding without a mask, and watch the Mets lose, in person. I want to resume our monthly rendezvous with Ann and Gail at the 101 Pub and have Friendsgiving Eve at the Schaeffer’s.
I also want to lose 20 (okay, 30) pounds, get a new kitchen, become a famous novelist, and meet Taylor Swift.
In the meantime, I just have to hope that the risks we take won’t take our lives, hurt our families, or turn us into the told-you-sos of our social circles.
That we forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And that most of all, since we can’t control anyone’s behavior but our own, that we just bite our tongues behind our masks and instead, think of what Tim Moraski would say.
It is what it is.