What I’ll Remember by Paula Mikrut

The grandfather of someone I worked with attended the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II. He kept a diary, which mentioned the event and then, across five pages, described the kinds of beer and vodka that were served.My mother lived through the second world war. When I asked what she remembered, she told me about taking a shopping bag each week to White Castle, whose hamburgers didn’t contain enough meat to count against her family’s rations.

My father served in the Korean War, and the only story I remember him telling us was of being seasick for six weeks on the ship that carried him to his post in Europe.

It’s harder to remember the sweep of history we’re part of than the thing that made it real. The personal connection.

So when this is over, what will I remember?

• The lilac bush that I’m watching from my living room window. The sadness of passing time as this virus rages on. The memory of promises I’ve made to myself that, someday, I would take the time to enjoy watching winter turn into spring.
• Typing around our dog, who has figured out that there’s enough room for him between me and my laptop. The comfort of his friendship, which doesn’t keep me from missing the cat who would be sitting behind me, chewing my hair, if he were here.
• The eighty-eight miles I walked in the first month after losing my job. All of the neighbors I’ve met for the first time on my daily walks. The younger people with their eyes straight ahead, earbuds in place. Older people who wave and shout encouragement to every stranger they come upon.
• Our changing eating habits. Where should we eat tonight? Here, of course. What’s in the fridge that will spoil the soonest? How will it taste if we mix it all together?
• My first virtual happy hour, the pleasure of which doesn’t keep me from missing the hugs my friends and I used to share, and may never again.
• Being eligible for senior citizen shopping hours, but still feeling like I’d be happy to do cartwheels in the parking lot before I enter the store.
• The day I was so bored that I learned enough origami to make a butterfly from a spare dollar bill in my purse.
• Learning for the first time in my adult life to sleep past 5:30.

But the memory that I think will stay with me the longest is this. Looking out my back window in the direction of my mother, whose assisted living facility is just two miles from me, and wondering whether I will ever see her again.


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