I can hear my teenage daughters leaping and dancing, laughing through the night. The sliding door between the kitchen and my room’s hallway is shut; they must have done that while I slept. I hear doors open, shut, the water dispenser on the fridge sounds. More thumps as feet hit floor and laughter, a child’s piano flute instrument sounds through closed doors. It is 4:45 am. This has been going on for the past three nights.
My children are home, sequestered, and happier than they have been in months, frolicking, together. They sleep til noon, or three or four in the afternoon. I make dinner around seven. Tap on doors and say, dinner, sometimes twice. They always come, look into the pan, grab a plate and serve themselves. I sit across from them, single parent, their plates and bowls on placemats I hastily remembered to slide into place from the hutch where they have been stored through busy nights. They spoon up the warm soups, exclaim the breads are good, fork in the kale.
One pauses to pick a new song from her phone, consults silently with the other, a nod, the song. I’ve ceased the no phones at the table rule. I’ve ceased all rules. Let them go feral, let them thrive in the way they may, whatever that is, during this sequestering time, teach me, children, show me you can regain the joy you’ve lost, so young and jaded and lost of hope these past few years with your ceaseless knowledge and contact with world events, friends and social dramas, show me yourselves hidden these past months behind teenager stares as you’ve fallen exhausted onto your beds, unable to speak past the hurt you see and feel, hurt for the world, hurt for yourselves in how to live in it.
And my daughters look at one another at the table, one makes a slight sound, a head movement perhaps, and the other understands her, and they are laughing, looking at one another, so close as they have not been since they played with legos and dolls and sang about frogs courting. And then the older one looks across at me, and asks if I want to learn a dance, and we get up, they place me between them, they are patient with me as I learn the moves, me feeling I’ve forgotten how to dance, my daughters patient, laughing, slowing down for me, showing me how.
Rebecca Rothenberg, MS PhD, is a writer, editor, and forest landscape ecologist. She writes poetry about madrones and chickadees from her phone when she’s running on an undulating dirt path. She sketches out mystery plots and characters, and revises them when the world spins. She lives in Corvallis, Oregon, with her two teenaged daughters and their two adolescent, exhuberant, and under-schooled border collie kelpie dogs.