“I like your face mask, Grandma.”
Her words nearly broke my heart. But I didn’t let on to 4-year-old Isabelle who sat behind me, buckled in her car seat, waiting for Grandpa to exit the convenience store with a gallon of milk.
My cotton print mask, dangling from the cup holder, was in her favorite color, pink. I grabbed the mask and pointed to the colored circles thereon—yellow, green, white, pink, blue, orange.
“Mine has lady bugs,” Izzy said. “And the other is brown.”
I knew about the masks, which had just arrived in the mail from my granddaughter’s great aunt in New Jersey. I was grateful for that gift. But, still, the thought of a preschooler aware of face coverings made me profoundly sad. Her parents had already talked to Izzy about COVID-19 in terms she could understand—that people are sick. She accepts that as the reason she can’t see her friends, go to the library, visit Como Park or the Minnesota Zoo and much more.
I followed that same simple explanation when we were at a Faribault park with Izzy. I kept a watchful eye as she zoomed ahead of Randy and me on her scooter. When I saw others approaching on the trail, I called for her to stop. She listened. We moved to the side and I formed a barrier between myself and passersby. I feel an overwhelming need to protect my sweet granddaughter.
Isabelle never once asked to play on the playground. She understands that, for now, for her safety, she can’t.
We tried to make our park visit as ordinary as possible, pausing to watch a family of ducks along the shoreline. It was a moment of grace, observing downy ducklings guarded by their mother. Not unlike me with Izzy. We listened to their incessant cheeping and I wondered what they were communicating to one another. Warnings perhaps.
We stopped also so Grandpa could clip a spray of lilacs.
And we picnicked beside the Cannon River, listening to the noisy chirp of birds. Izzy nibbled at her turkey sandwich, ate too many grapes, tried a few of Grandpa’s chips and enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie we’d baked the day prior. When she was done, I wet a napkin with an ice cube pulled from the cooler and wiped away the melting chocolate circling her lips. I love that sweet little face.
On our way home, we stopped at the convenience store. And had that conversation about face masks. When Grandpa pulled open the van door to set the jug of milk and bananas inside, Izzy watched as I squirted hand sanitizer into his open palm. “I don’t like your face mask, Grandpa,” she said. His is black-and-white checkered like a racing flag. No pink anywhere on the fabric.
Preschoolers are, if anything, honest.
And they need us to protect them and those they love. Like their parents. Their siblings. Their grandparents. Their aunts and uncles and cousins. Their friends. They need us to wear face masks.
© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Sweet moments with your sweet Izzy. Made me smile.
Thankful I made you smile.
Yes, we have certainly have entered a new age of uncharted waters. Children’s acceptance of face masks is one of those examples. While a necessary precaution looking ahead we all wonder what school will look like in the fall. So many surreal moments we have all experienced as of late.
It will be interesting to see what happens with schools this fall.
I hope you are doing well, Paula. I’m behind on reading blog posts. Lots going on and not enough time in a day.
Haven’t written much recently on my blog. Many written in my head but it hasn’t felt right to post. With all the international attention Minnesota and Minneapolis is getting right now it might be awhile before I post. I was horrified, sad, outraged, and then wanted to demand justice for the man who was killed. Yes, I watched the entire disturbing video and was ashamed at how professional policemen and EMTs acted towards another human. We all need prayers right now for the families who are hurting and for those who want justice served peacefully. Firing those officers is clearly not enough from where I stand as a citizen and as a professional.
Paula, I don’t even know where to begin. But I will say these past days, nearly a week, have proven unsettling and difficult. Last evening our community joined the many with curfews. Prayers for healing, peace, justice and calm are certainly needed.
Been doing a great deal of that with these unsettling events this last week. Sending hope, love and thoughts to my entire Minnesota community.
Thank you, Paula. I know you care deeply for your home state.
Awwww, sounds like you had a sweet visit with Izzy. I breaks my heart too that we even have to be having discussions about facemasks, let alone wear them. Ugh!
So much is breaking my heart right now.
That’s so sad.
It is, in many ways.