“Before we do this, we have a confession. We are a mess. Are you still in?”
I look at my husband, we nod in agreement and I say, “yes, of course.”
We accept the invitation on our screen and are suddenly two couples, peering into our phones, Facetiming each other. We are 3,000 miles apart, we have never met, yet we share something, something intimate, arguably more important to all of us than nearly anything else in the world right now. Our children. Who are dating. Our 21-year-old son and their 20-year-old daughter. With the ever-changing Corona situation, what started as a Meet the Parents visit for him, before flying off to join his older brother and us for a spring vacation, has become a three-week long and counting Sheltering in Place with New Girl Friend & Her Family adventure.
Not only have we not ever met the parents, who live within an hour’s drive of our son’s college, we also haven’t met their by all accounts delightful daughter, a fellow student. Yet, we cannot mistake the deliriously upbeat tone of our son’s voice on the other end of phone.
“Her parents are really cool, Mom and Dad. They like me. So do her two younger brothers. They have three really friendly cats and two dogs. And hiking trails nearby. Trust me, they’re fine with me staying as long as I need to while we wait for the End of the World.”
We stare at the couple, seated on their bed. He, chatty, with mod glasses, mussed morning hair and surprisingly handsome 5 o’clock shadow (or do they call this tech bro beard where he lives in Northern California?); she, more reserved, seated behind him, with long honey-blond hair like her daughter’s, in a puffer jacket. It’s her birthday today; we feel as though we are invading their morning time in their master bedroom.
We continue chatting and smiling into the screen, keeping the conversation light-hearted and pleasant. You can tell we are all trying to make this feel as normal as possible, while in truth it feels bizarre. Almost comical, like we’re all starring in a 21st-century speed dating reality TV show and auditioning one another. Before the Apocalypse.
We talk about our pets. We show each other our respective back yards. Ours, drizzly New England gray, theirs sunny with a giant flamingo floating in a perfectly aqua pool. They assure us that our son is charming and a fine young man who has fit seamlessly into their family from the first moment.
“Our sons love him, too. Whenever he leaves, they immediately ask when he will be back and whether they can hang with him. He and our daughter cook for us. Last night was homemade pizza and s’mores,” the mother says.
I want to love them. I DO love them for being so agreeable and generous and seemingly easy-going about taking our son into the fold of their seemingly warm and idyllic household. During a global pandemic, no less.
But … there’s that word, seemingly.
What do we really know about them?
Normally my husband and I are as rational, selective, and circumspect as one would expect about our social choices, and those of our children. During these unprecedented times, which threaten our physical and mental health, not to mention the entire global economy, I am going to go with my heart.
Like making home-made hand sanitizer, attending virtual cocktail and birthday parties, listening to Zoom symphonies, and taking impromptu walks with neighbors (6 ft apart), entrusting our son with a family vetted only via Facetime is an entirely new Covid-sanctioned activity I am trying to embrace.
Even before Corona upended our lives, raising independent young men has been a painful process of letting go, or rather, lengthening the reins while trying to remain relevant and responsible. As much as I feel the loss of the opportunity for the four of us to shelter in place, to refresh our family bonds, to laugh or cry together during these unprecedented times, I am trying to instead be grateful that our son has serendipitously landed himself in such a good place, and admittedly marvel that he did it without our help.
Knowing that this family is happy to give our son a home while chaos lurks beyond the door is all I need to know about them right now. Well, that and that our son is not even the most recent addition to their household. That would be a new puppy, a French bulldog, which just happens to be our son’s favorite breed, and something he has long fantasized about in our cat-only household.
Puppy love over pandemic. I can get behind that.