I Don’t Remember How to Shake Hands

In late January I sat down to write about turning 45. Got maybe two or three paragraphs on the page. Even looked up a quote I fondly remembered from Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. In the last half of January (January 20th, to be exact), I sat down and wrote: The world is, for the most part, feeling lighter this week. Read whatever you’d like into that sentence.

In neither instance was I able to string together enough words to publish a post. I’ve had countless *I’m gonna sit down and write about that* moments in these first months of 2021, and zero instances of having enough time and energy to sit down and actually do it. I blame COVID and work and life in general and not having a dishwasher for something like six weeks. And probably some other shiz too.

And do I even need to say I have zero business sitting down to write anything right now? Have we reached the point in this relationship yet where that is a given? Grass is green, Trump is orange, poop stinks and Anne’s house is a disaster. There are piles of laundry waiting to be folded, the kitchen is messy, my bed is not made, the floor of the mudroom is legit muddy. So sitting down to blather on about current events in the life of the Holt family feels gratuitous and indulgent. In what feels like another lifetime, I participated in writing workshops where participants worked together to deal with battling those attitudes of guilt surrounding taking the time to write; but apparently I need a lifetime of those workshops to bolster me. I have no idea why I’m telling you this.

I’d like to tell you about what school has looked like for my kids in terms of in person learning v. distance, but I’ve lost all track of when they physically go to school and when they don’t. They were going in person a couple of days a week, then they weren’t, now they are; and I think maybe they’ll be going four days a week in the near future. Or at the 12th grader will. Or maybe it’s the 10th grader. I don’t know. I haven’t followed the announcements because for so long the details were changing by the minute. And I can’t do anything about it, so why bother paying attention?! I know, I know. Mom of the year here. I can tell you that on their first day back after a long stretch of exclusively distance learning, once they walked out the door, I was damn excited to have 30 minutes of being home without them before I needed to leave for work. I love them, of course I do. But.

My son is something like three months away from graduating from high school. He has done one official campus visit (that I essentially forced him to do last February), one campus visit during his sophomore year that was part of a larger event (that he only participated in because it came with a basketball ticket), and walked around one campus without talking to a single living being because of COVID. He applied to two schools (and as of this past week was accepted to both… holla!). This is not where I envisioned us, my friends. Not at all. I thought we’d make multiple trips to visit schools, apply to maybe a dozen, maybe enjoy some quality family time on road trips to take in the wide array of options. Anybody remember the term Anne-realistic? Like unrealistic but with my own special delusion laced panache. COVID or no, this vision would’ve been a stretch for this kid and our family. And, once we fell behind on the typical schedule of this process and COVID hit? There’s really been nothing to do but accept what we cannot change and move on. He may very well have to decide between the two schools he’s been accepted to without ever having gone on an in-person tour at one of them. I understand this is pretty whiny and a problem of the privileged; so I’ll end this paragraph by saying I fully acknowledge we’re sitting in a pretty good place right now and I am grateful.

My daughter has been ridiculously busy with ski racing, instructing ski lessons, occasionally attending winter training for soccer, and working hard in school. She has also been incredibly difficult to live with. I get it. Her regular life is full throttle. Throw COVID and all it entails on top of things and it stands to reason she’d be tired and cranky. But does she really need to send me snarky texts about being stuck at school without a ride home when I’m at work without a car? Can she really not keep from throwing her underwear on the floor where the dog will undoubtedly destroy it? Could she manage to carry her clean and folded laundry (you’re welcome, by the way, ya ungrateful monster) upstairs to her room? Oh how I love her energy and zest and zeal for life and her dauntless attitudes; but oh how she exhausts me.

I suppose all this is to say my kids are somewhat developmentally on track. Yay??!!

No, it’s Yay. No question mark. While all of this is tinged with the COVID realities of the last year, it’s also tinged with a whole lot of normal. A whole lot of the same shiz we dealt with in ‘normal’ times. There are some aspects of life unchanged by the pandemic, and I am grateful for that.

A few weeks ago my son came into the kitchen and shook my hand. I don’t remember why. He was being a goof and probably saying something like ‘Congrats on being an idiot, Boomer.’ Not really, they don’t say boomer anymore, thank you universe. Whatever the impetus was for him shaking my hand, after he did it, I said, “Why did you just shake my hand using left hands?”. He quickly informed me we’d shaken using right hands, as one always does. Of course he was totally polite about it (Anne-realistic). It was a bit of a mind blowing moment because I realized that shaking hands felt so freaking weird that I thought we were using the wrong hands (maybe wrong is not the best word– hands we don’t normally use to shake??). Like my right-handed self was trying to write with my left hand.

The essence of this moment is getting lost in the process of me trying to make it into words on a page, but it was mind-blowing to realize how foreign and wrong it felt to shake someone’s hand. It was a startling reminder of how utterly inane and bizarre the last year has been. How once familiar things now feel foreign.

We are, I think and hope, seeing light at the end of this COVID tunnel. But I try not to think about how many once basic, familiar things like shaking hands will feel jarring in the coming months; because it’s just too overwhelming. Getting on a plane, kids going to school more than two days a week, maybe even going to church and passing the peace, taking my kid to college(??!!??!!). I’m sure the list will be long and I’m certain the moments that take me aback will be plentiful. And I hope I’m not putting the cart before the horse by thinking about it.

2 thoughts on “I Don’t Remember How to Shake Hands

  1. Love your family, you, and love this.
    It is in the spirit of that love that I’m telling you this:
    It’s high time your kids washed and dried their own laundry, folding be damned!


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