Like me, JLH is the age group that is most at risk from COVID-19 (although he’s a ways further along in that group than I am). Below is his take on the current Coronamadness, and what it portends for younger generations.
A Lost Generation
It’s a pain for all of us — wearing a mask, keeping social distance. But, in a way, it is easier for those of us most vulnerable. We just have to follow the rules and try to stay safe. Those who are considered most at risk are often retired — able to stay out of the mainstream of life until this all goes away (when?). And we also have the choice of resisting it in whatever way we wish.
Even if we live out our lives this way, we have already had lives. We went to school, had proms, dated and mingled. It’s there in our memories. What we are deprived of is perhaps one more trip we wanted to take, the parties we still wanted to give and attend.
If you live to a certain age, how much do you have to complain of? If your life was not completely to your satisfaction, that may have had something to do with how you lived it.
But how responsible is a sixteen— or seventeen-year-old high school student for what is happening to him or her? Classes at a distance — not only no real contact with the teacher, but with classmates. Maybe abbreviated, masked attendance at classes where not everyone understands everyone else. Where the teacher may sound as if he or she is talking with a mouthful of mashed potatoes. Where the teachers, too, are frustrated by seeing only a fraction of students at a time — possibly teaching the same thing twice. Where you can ask a student “What did you learn in your two days of class this week?” And the answer is “Nothing.”
What happens to the average student in an average town, in an average school, whose average parents have no idea about home-schooling? Is this their lost year? Will it be the only one? Will there be whole cohorts of youngsters whose minds and psyches will forever be stunted by the (hopefully one) year of stasis?
Nowadays, even young kids are into online surfing, texting, e-mailing. Sometimes someone of the older generations sees them with their noses in a phone and thinks, “Why aren’t they running around, skipping rope, playing sandlot baseball, capture-the-flag?” Adding a mask only intensifies the “flight inward”.
And the little ones… How do you explain to a 2-year-old that it’s okay that he/she can’t breathe so well, or eat M&Ms or (heaven forbid) chew bubble gum. Once we get home and close the door, you can, uh, watch TV without a mask on. But don’t go to your sister’s room for the next two weeks, okay?
I remember World War II as part of my life from age 6 to age 10. It was a time of shortages and some sacrifices, like gas rationing, margarine instead of butter, renting freezer spaces for large purchases like a side of beef, or mason jars and large pots and kettles for the fruits and vegetables from the garden and the apple tree in the backyard. A defining difference was that we knew from a very young age why the rationing and restrictions existed. There was no doubt what we were doing. So we collected newspapers and cans and even picked milkweed (for parachutes, they told us). It was a gigantic team effort, and it felt good.
But how good does it feel to see half of everyone’s face, to watch for the tell-tale crinkling of the eyes to see if someone is smiling. When does a 5-year-old rediscover the natural world? When does a 16-year-old go to a dance? When does life begin again?