Coach Katie runs a tight ship. Always has. And between the pandemic and the recent birth of her daughter, her enthusiasm for organization, schedules, and enforcing protocols has only grown.
For instance, in the waning days of summer, yours truly— Coach Katie’s one and favorite brother—was denied entry to her home at the point of a hose until swearing on the ghost of Steve Prefontaine that no one in my family had been compromised since decamping from the safe zone of our home in Bozeman. Did I mention that Coach Katie lives in Spokane and had instructed my wife to avail herself of a parking lot in lieu of a restroom, should the need arise?
Well, like I said, tight ship. And, naturally, a certain wariness of the shenanigans that, I admit, I’m capable of. But she’s my sister and a good enough sport to let me regularly tease her in print.
Anyway, what I’m getting around to here is dinner on our final evening in Spokane. Already on the visit—after taking every precaution not to bring any life-threatening viruses to spread to the elderly, newborn, or asthmatic among us—we had enjoyed days of social un-distancing. And, my, how familiar it still is to be with people. How right it feels. My wife and I had met Sophie, our niece, and felt the truth of Thoreau’s observation that “every child begins the world again.”
Our son had met and even held his new cousin. We had eaten, we had played games, we had gone for walks, and we had done it all—deep breath—without masks. It was as if in driving to Spokane we had passed through a portal to the world as we had known it our whole lives until about March. Please don’t get the wrong idea here. I don’t mean to write a piece about the pandemic’s silver lining: how it clarifies our priorities and teaches us not to take anything for granted. Th at silver lining is real, to be sure, but this thing has been going on half a year already and we’ve had plenty of time to practice memento mori. In setting a “normal” scene I mean only to be loyal to how it was.
Our parents drove up from Portland that day and, after undergoing Coach Katie’s thorough scrutiny, were admitted to the pod. They are in their seventies and had not been in the company of both their children’s families since sometime in 2019, so, yes, OK, a little memento mori here. But, the dinner. Katie and her husband, Mike, introduced us to raclette: a Swiss fondue-like dish of melted cheese served over grilled meats and vegetables. Because you cook at the table as you go, it makes for a good, slow meal and leisurely conversation. We sat a long time, telling old stories and speaking adoringly of the baby. And then, in due course, dessert. We let our son eat cake and ice cream and stay up late, and the next day when we paid the price for this decision we did so without regret.
Sophie, meanwhile, had fed just before our dinner and was exploring the blissed wonderland of a good milk coma. I can think of her in this moment as nothing but peaceful. Her world is tiny. Its dimensions are her parents’ love and her mother’s milk. It won’t always be this way, but for right now those two things are everything and they are plenty.
No one (not even Prefontaine’s ghost) knows the future of this pandemic, this planet, or this troubled country. But if we reap what we sow, wisdom and care are never wasted. Sophie is growing from love and milk. I take solace in that. And I can’t wait to get back to Spokane.