Every culture values each member of their society differently. In the US, we seem only to value beautiful young people and wealthy celebrities over all else. Although the rise of helicopter parenting would suggest we adore our children, I would posit that our incessant over-scheduling, irrational fear for their self-esteem, and almost pathological hovering – so they never make a mistake or feel pain – is more about us than them. We live out our own fears through our parenting of our children – injecting them with our neuroses. At the other end of the age spectrum, in America, if you’re old, wrinkled and poor you’re invisible and screwed.
From the perspective of a cultural outsider in Spain, here it’s the opposite. It seems the Spanish value old people and children more than any other members of society. I think this is why it’s so difficult during this time when so many old people are disproportionately impacted by this virus. Hugely valued members of the society are dying at an alarming rate and they must do so alone, without their families holding their hands. It’s not just a tragedy for the person, or even the family. It’s a tragedy of epic proportions for the society as a whole. Yes, we’ve had our own struggles during this time, but while we are not culturally connected to Spain, we still feel the loss in the air like a heavy weight.
This is why yesterday was so important. After many weeks struggling, while the country was in lock down, the streets were quiet – only those going to a grocery store – alone – were allowed on the streets. But then the damn broke, as our grim numbers have fallen. Spanish children <13 were allowed to leave their homes from Sunday, for 1 hours per day to roam up to 1 km from their homes on the street. They can not go to play grounds or hug or congregate with their friends. But they can go outside.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately laying on the sofa looking out the window. Seeing our familiar friends at the dog park playing together. Yesterday the noises changed on the street. There was laughter in the air. Belly laughs that reminded me of my kids when they were little. The most beautiful sound in the world.
And there was shouting. Siblings yelling to each other and some fighting over a scooter. I’ve never heard something better. Jeff and I sat on on the balcony and hugged each other. We watched it all go by. A man kicking a soccer ball with his son in surgical masks and gloves. I waved and they waved back. A moment of contact. We were transported to the pavement. They were us. It made me miss my kids profoundly. That little boy was my son, Nick. The little girl dressed in pink, riding her scooter like a boss was Em.
Since March, Valencia has been like those scenes from the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie when we were kids. No children on the street. As though COVID-19 was that scary child snatcher who steals all the kids and locks them up in the castle. But they are back now. Running and feeling the sun on their faces – if just for a short time each day. We can’t go outside, but seeing these little goats jumping and playing gives us hope. If our numbers of new infections and daily deaths keep dropping, we may be the ones very soon allowed out for our 1 hour. I can hardly imagine it. 1 hour outside.
And then I laugh to myself. I’m barely up for a walk across the living room. What would I do with 1 hour walking outside? If I had it today I couldn’t use it. The look on Jeff’s face yesterday said it all. He smiled so big I wanted to cry. He has been through so much in the last two months. He deserves his 1 hour, as well as mine. If they’d let me give it to someone I’d give it to him. It’s more than just a walk. It’s possibility. It’s hope.