These are days you’ll remember, Never before and never since

I promise, Will the whole world be warm as this

And as you feel it, You’ll know it’s true 

That you are blessed and lucky, It’s true that you 

Are touched by something, That will grow in you, in you

It was the summer of 1993 — I was let loose with my high school friends at our first concert on Jones Beach, the 10,000 Maniacs playing their album Our Time in Eden.  And God was it ever my time in Eden. In my long flowing sundress and beaded choker necklace, my growing sense of independence and power matched only by the overwhelming heat emanating from the endless concrete parking lot as my friends and I giddily made our way past fresh-faced hordes of summer revelers. The youthful exuberance in the crowd that night was palpable, almost visibly manifest in the shimmering humid air of summer dusk on Long Island, a myriad of sparkles shone on the slight sheen of sweat on our supple skin, thousands of people joined together to watch a tiny sprite of a woman leap and skip around the stage in magical wonder.  And I thought to myself, YES. I knew with all my heart that these were, without a doubt “the days you’ll remember, never before and never since.” Cue senior year of high school, graduation, college and adulthood beyond.

While my seminal teenage memory at Jones Beach included brushing bare, tanned shoulders with the throngs of people, today I walk along the Hudson River for my daily constitutional of four miles, 6 feet distanced from other walkers amidst a global pandemic.  And the lyrics that “these are the days” reverberate in my adult reality for entirely different reasons. These words carry with them an entirely separate meaning, and not only because I’m no longer young, skin no longer supple, and 10,000 Maniacs no longer together.  “These are the days we’ll remember” because huddled together from corner to corner of our planet, people are living in fear and hoping for a safe resolution of this virus that has swept our globe. “Never before and never since” could be parsed and argued with for its medical and historical accuracy, with respect to plagues and influenzas past, but certainly we are in a time that feels unparalleled, even by the nation-altering, tragic events of September 11, 2001.

So how do we go on in “these” days, when the unprecedented experience, unlike my teenage memory, is not one of joy and empowerment but one of fear and isolation?  How do we mine our personal histories to find solace in strengths and happinesses past to get us through this moment? I’ve written already of my aspiration to find a silver lining in each day during our quarantine, something I’ve continued to successfully do — my kid learning to clean his toilet, my son learning to fold his shirts, my daughter baking brownies all by herself.  I have taken solace in the sense of accomplishment found in teaching my children everyday chores, tasks well done, kindnesses offered to others, gestures that show we are banded together as a family. I stand by my belief in the emotional comfort offered by my children’s growing armory of mundane household skills.

What I worry about, late at night, when the daily tasks are done, are my children’s lost moments of youth.  What of their own memories of teenage concerts on a summer night? Late night whisperings with friends at a sleepover? Spring pickup football games in the park followed by hot slices of pizza? I’m not sure my kids know enough to realize what they’re missing, because they have yet to experience most of it.  But I know what they are missing. While socially isolated from everyone, my husband and I cannot replace the raucous companionship of their peers, we cannot offer a teenager’s taste of freedom found on a summer night, we cannot be their soulmates to which they share their wondrous and terrifying secrets.  

And yet I know, for me to regret what my kids won’t get to experience this spring is my time wasted, even as my heart aches for their lost, precious days.  I must turn my thoughts to what can be done.  What can be salvaged. Here is my vow (which I will likely inconsistently execute, if I’m being honest): I can create as many small moments of joy as possible when we are holed up together as a family in the coming weeks.  I can remember to pick my head up from my laptop. I can linger longer at the dinner table even though I’d rather go read my book. I can let my son help me cook even though it takes longer than doing it alone. I can play the game of Rummikub I always lose to my daughter.  I can listen to my kids’ recount their victories on Fortnite or FIFA even though I could care less about their video games. I can go out for a football catch even though it makes my hands sting in the cold air.  

I can let the small things slide and I can stay grounded in the big stuff — safety, love and gratitude.  I can teach my kids that even in moments such as these, we can appreciate, as the rest of the song reminds us, we “are blessed and lucky.” That reminder will spur me to hug my kids tight every night during this limbic time and tell them I love them, even though they pissed me off that day.  While I cannot offer them Jones Beach and their first delicious tastes of freedom, I can offer them my unconditional love and devotion, which I firmly believe they will remember and value as much as a summer concert at the beach. In a different time and a different reality, these are the days we’ll remember that we are blessed and lucky.

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