Dragonfly Funeral: Parenting During a Pandemic.
I saw a dragonfly funeral today.
I didn’t wake up expecting to see that. I didn’t have any expectations for the day at all, only the same vague sense of unease that has accompanied me since COVID-19 entered the US and we were locked down in March six months ago.
That sense of unease grew this week as our local school district went back to school. 80% went back in-person, and we were part of the 20% that chose to do e-learning from the onset. My son’s high-risk immune status was the defining factor in that decision, but it was weighed heavily against his need for other kids. The kids he had been missing so much for this half a year.
In lieu of this, we decided to form a pod. At first, we thought we would be learning together, but the e-learning is in real-time this year (vs the self-study approach the haste of the need to go virtual last year mandated). So, on this last Friday before Labor day, and completion of the first week of school, we were meeting for the first time, just to play.
Gathering in the parking lot of a local hiking spot, we were all tentatively excited to see each other. Some knew some well, and others were new friends. We all had masks, and while it wasn’t sweltering, it was humid, making the outside a little more uncomfortable than the inside.
The kids, three girls and two boys, ages 7-9, ran off ahead of us, the moms. We walked to a pond area and decided that skipping stones would be a good distraction for them and a chance for us to talk and watch, as mothers do. Our conversation now included interjections of “Pull your mask up! Over your nose!” A change from before, for sure.
The kids got to be kids. For my son, it felt like one of the very rare times in the past few months. And there were no toys. Just sticks and rocks and the pond. They ran around, discovering new things, not listening as we passively called them back, but then rounding around on their own when they collectively realized they strayed too far. But having a space to push that boundary. To be together.
One, the quieter animal-lover of the group (the sweet young person I identified with the most), found a dragonfly on the ground with only three wings. After intense inspection, in which we the moms weighed in that it was indeed not alive, they collectively ran off again. We resumed chatting, about life, the challenges of this period, our fears, but mostly just how good it was to be around other people.
Then I looked over because my mom-sense was tingling.
The children, the sweet babies who were not infants but not teenagers either, wanted to honor this dragonfly and give it a proper send-off. I heard dragonfly funeral and I marveled at their empathy. I watched with one half of my brain as I listened to a woman chat with the other.
Never was a dragonfly so loved. It was tenderly laid on a leaf and pushed gently(ish) into the pond to float away. The kids said words of goodbye. I couldn’t hear their exact statements, but I saw them follow it with more leaves and other floatable things so that it wouldn’t be alone on its water journey.
Then, as kids do, they ran off to find more twigs and rocks and distraction. The dragonfly was honored by laughs and shrieks of the most innocent kind, as we, a group of tired women living in unknown times, paused to look on. Collectively grateful that we could get these children together safely to play. To be. For that was the lesson the pandemic had given us, not to take these moments — this moment — for granted.
Thank you, dear dragonfly, for showing that to us. We will revere you always for it, each in our own ways.