First Words

Over the past few months we’ve celebrated the efforts of our frontline workers – the grocery store staff who clean our carts and process our orders, the first responders and the healthcare workers who work in emergency departments and look after our elderly parents. But there is a new front forming on the horizon with an army of children going back to school in the midst of the pandemic.

A few weeks ago, I stood at the bathroom sink with my three-year-old grandson Tristan while he washed his hands. As he dutifully scrubbed both sides of his little paws, he looked up at me with his clear blue eyes and explained, “Nannie, it’s because we have to fight the Corwona birus.”

Tristan starts Junior Kindergarten this month. When he lets go of his mom’s hand at the school door, his teacher won’t be able to give him a reassuring hug as he crosses the unfamiliar threshold. As he moves through the school day, he’ll have to measure his success by the tone of his teacher’s voice because smiles of encouragement are hidden behind masks and physical contact has the potential to spread the deadly Corwona birus.

Other kids, the same age as Tristan, will go back to school on buses armed with their lunches, their masks and bottles of hand sanitizer. To me, they are tiny foot soldiers heading off to battle in the face of a foe that doesn’t speak or strike out at them. But kids are resilient and what lies ahead is a whole new world, where friendships are made through eye contact and the kindness in a voice, a place where knowledge is the reward for their bravery.