I write this while on a flight to Raleigh from San Francisco. My face hurts from wearing an N95 mask and a face shield for 4 hours, with hours still ahead. My hands are chapped from constant washing and habitual Purell use. My heart is heavy as I leave my family for my life back on the East Coast, and I’m quick to tear up because I don’t know when I’m going to physically see them again. My mother and I hugged, tightly, before I boarded the airport shuttle. We couldn’t seem to let each other go.
The days ahead are filled with an unimaginable sense of uncertainty, a dreadful state of mind that breeds anxiety. There’s a deep pit of fear, distrust, and isolation brewing in my chest. I seesaw between utter happiness at the blessing of being alive and profound sadness and anger that fluctuates with the news cycle.
My mother urges me to maintain a sense of normalcy while (of course) not forgetting about the virus. Focus on my hobbies, take some drives around North Carolina, do well in school. I try not to doom scroll but sometimes I can’t help it. I feel as though if I have all the answers, I’ll feel better. Desperately seeking solace in the midst of a failing administration and record-setting mournful statistics, my phone pings with a photo message. My anxiety briefly subsides and I smile, because I know who it is. It’s baby of the day.
My sister’s son Caleb was born in March, in a world of uncertainty all his own. Born to first-time parents, his gender was left a mystery until birth and his arrival into this fraught world was met with a few minor complications. The fears and uneasiness subsided as his parents settled into a routine and now 4 months later, Caleb is a bundle of pure joy. I gush when we video chat throughout the week. He incessantly babbles while trying to eat everything in sight and I tell him how much I love his outfit. My sister updates me on his comings and goings – he’s rolling over, he screeches like a pterodactyl, he battles with the dog over squeaky toys. These small details are beyond meaningful to me, it’s hard to put into words. I knew I would watch him grow up via a screen, but I also thought I would meet him in person before he turned one. I’m quick to place blame on those who are enabling the spread of the virus but before I can launch into a tirade, I rewatch videos of him and I remember to smile again. Out of more than 150 photos, I chose one as the background on my phone. In it, he’s only about 2 months or so, wearing a blue and green striped onesie. He’s nestled in his father’s lap, leaning his back against Tyler’s knees. His cherub face looks into the camera and is squished down by his chin, giving him three chins. His eyes are slightly cross-eyed and it’s the derpiest face I’ve ever seen. Mark says I’m not doing him justice because he’s an insanely adorable baby but the picture makes me laugh, every single time.
Caleb reminds me everyday to stay positive, to smile, to laugh, and to appreciate anything and everything I have now. He arrived in the midst of a pandemic, a citizen of a horribly inefficient, selfish, and racist administration – and yet – he’s happy. He laughs with his whole face, like my brother did as a baby. He has his father’s eyes, his grandmother’s chin, and his mother’s stubbornness. He’s part of a close-knit, doting family who will shower him with love and affection for the rest of his life. He reminds me to reflect on my roots, my family, my history and my future. My family has always been incredibly close and Caleb ensures that we remain close, even during current circumstances. I get to see my sister thrive as a mother, my parents explode with happiness at the sight of their first grandchild, and I get to contemplate my moment when I finally get to meet him.
For now, I don’t know when I’ll get to meet him. It elates and saddens me to see my siblings hold him, but I know I’ll get to grasp his chubby hand someday. I never thought I would anticipate spit up and baby slobber as much as I do now. Until then, baby of the day will continue to fill that pit of despair with immense love, one video at a time.