COVID de­fers my dreams of a birthday bash

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - NATALIE Y. MOORE @na­tal­iey­moore Natalie Moore is a re­porter for WBEZ.

Au­gust is my birthday month. Back in April, when I fool­ishly as­sumed the coro­n­avirus would pass over us even­tu­ally like a thun­der­storm, I planned a cel­e­bra­tion in my head. I imag­ined sum­mer sun­shine re­new­ing Chicago. No more hi­ber­na­tion, no more quar­an­tine.

I an­tic­i­pated singing and danc­ing to “Ev­ery­body Re­joice” from “The Wiz.” Ev­ery­body’s glad

Be­cause our silent fear and dread is gone

Free­dom, you see, has got our hearts singing so joy­fully

Just look about

You owe it to your­self to check it out Can’t you feel a brand new day?

The last line is the cho­rus, sung re­peat­edly. A brand new day sym­bol­ized, to me, walk­ing out­side with­out so­cial dis­tanc­ing and the re­turn of so­cial gath­er­ings. I dreamed of invit­ing friends to come on the sec­ond Sun­day in Au­gust to the Stony Is­land Arts Bank in the Greater Grand Cross­ing neigh­bor­hood, where DJ Duane Pow­ell spins a soul­ful mix of house mu­sic at a day party called Sun­day Ser­vice.

How per­fect, to start my next ro­ta­tion around the sun with deep house cuts while toast­ing the end to the bru­tal COVID-19. I wel­comed the thought of such a joy­ful spir­i­tual re­lease.

But this reverie was short-lived, as it be­came clear in the spring that the coro­n­avirus would be un­remit­ting and ru­inous. Alas, I woke up on my ac­tual birthday to pic­tures of the Chicago River bridges raised, as though down­town were a cas­tle in a moat, ac­com­pa­nied by the news that loot­ing had taken place overnight.

2020 is the pan­demic year that keeps on giv­ing. The past sev­eral months have felt like sev­eral years, and my new strands of gray hair are ev­i­dence of that sen­ti­ment. Re­mem­ber­ing a pre-pan­demic so­cial life is like wak­ing up from a dream in a fog.

A week be­fore the city put all of us on lock­down, I saw the Alvin Ai­ley dancers per­form at the Au­di­to­rium

Theater, “Her Honor Jane Byrne” at Look­ing­glass The­atre and “Mid­dle Pas­sage” at Life­line The­atre.

But most im­por­tant, a day be­fore Chicago’s shel­ter-in-place or­der took ef­fect, my fam­ily ate on the good china in the din­ing room. The teenagers’ vol­ley­ball club games had been can­celed, and for the first time in more than a year, all of us ate

Sun­day din­ner to­gether, a rit­ual that had been hard to keep up with our many ac­tiv­i­ties and com­mit­ments.

The coro­n­avirus has im­posed an un­wel­come in­ter­lude in our lives, with no signs of an end on the hori­zon. Cop­ing with this so-called ‘“new nor­mal” takes an emo­tional toll. As I bal­anced work­ing from home with a boot­leg ver­sion of homeschool­ing, I heard whis­pers of: Slow down.

In the early days of the pan­demic, when I wasn’t plot­ting a birthday cel­e­bra­tion, I had grandiose plans of read­ing books on World War II, all of Toni Mor­ri­son’s novels and a good LBJ bi­og­ra­phy.

I can’t check any of that off my list. How­ever, I can at least say I cleaned out my purse and up­loaded pic­tures from my phone to the cloud.

Some­times, es­pe­cially dur­ing tough times like now, we need to slow down. So while at home in my caf­tans — my go-to mid­dle-age uni­form — I’m con­sum­ing a lot more pop cul­ture. So far, Larry David made me laugh. “In­se­cure” made me smile. “The Last Dance” made me see peak lev­els of pro bas­ket­ball pet­ti­ness. “I May De­stroy You” made me marvel at the con­fu­sion around con­sent and sex­ual ac­tiv­ity.

This is not the time to pres­sure your­self into ex­per­i­ment­ing with a keto diet again or mas­ter­ing some new skill.

But slow­ing down doesn’t mean the pan­demic should be­come a com­plete sab­bat­i­cal. With racial un­rest in­ten­si­fy­ing here and across the coun­try, our lives feel even more pre­car­i­ous. As Amer­i­cans, we should be look­ing out for one an­other; yet, I’ve been sorely dis­ap­pointed in the lack of for­ti­tude shown by too many peo­ple who treat coro­n­avirus as an in­con­ve­nience in­stead of a global pan­demic.

Our re­sponse falls along po­lit­i­cal fault lines, and it’s dis­heart­en­ing to see how peo­ple in other coun­tries are car­ing for each other. They’re not de­bat­ing some­thing sim­ple like wear­ing a mask, or de­fy­ing or­ders against gath­er­ing in large crowds.

The strife adds yet an­other layer of stress about when — or if — COVID-19 will ever truly be over.

So for my birthday month this year, there will be no singing “Ev­ery­body Re­joice” en masse, in per­son. But we can all stand still and ab­sorb the lyrics, chal­leng­ing our­selves to make them a re­al­ity: Ev­ery­body be glad

Be­cause the sun is shin­ing just for us Ev­ery­body wake up

Into the morn­ing into hap­pi­ness Hello world

It’s like a dif­fer­ent way of liv­ing now And thank you world

We al­ways knew that we’d be free some­how

In har­mony

And show the world that we’ve got lib­erty.


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