Covid Keeps My Kids a Galaxy Away
By Naomi Serviss
I miss my kids.
Haven’t hugged Emmy or Ben since Thanksgiving, 2019.
We had gathered in Mississippi for a feast.
The food was sensational.
Everyone pitched in.
I goofed around with Luna, our granddog, rescued from a bad outcome.
Her name suits her as she is wont to lose her mind.
Luna’s a gangly, teenage-y creature still learning the ropes.
She can leap over a six-foot fence faster than Ben can code.
The leftovers were stashed.
The kitchen and dining rooms tidied.
Hedgehog salt and pepper shakers reunited.
The millennials are into games.
Out came the cards.
Board games, dice, betting chips, drawing pads and colored markers filled the table.
Ben strolled about with Luna and gazed fondly at his fiancée, Katherine.
Emmy’s thunderous laughter triggered mine.
I folded my poker hand and tripped down memory lane.
First stop was a soft landing at our home on Long Island.
A weekly cartoon from the ‘60s launched my trip.
The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, a subversively satirical touchstone resonates still.
Mr. Peabody, a bespectacled genius beagle, time-traveled in “The Wayback Machine” with his boy Sherman.
I Waybacked 30 years to our modest, corner-lot Cape Cod house in Greenlawn.
Designed with good intentions and terrible taste.
Indestructible yellow-brown-orange speckled linoleum floored the darkly paneled kitchen.
No-frills foam ceiling squares and interrogation-room fluorescent lighting were unfortunate choices.
But where better to stage Broadway musicals and roller skate? Sometimes simultaneously.
Emmy was less than thrilled when Ben joined our tribe.
“I don’t want him. I want the black baby.”
At least she used her words.
Emmy thawed when presented with a black baby doll from Toys R Us.
She stripped off its clothes and named her Robin.
Emmy grudgingly accepted Ben’s permanency.
As Ben grew, she realized he was an easy mark.
She coaxed him into Broadway-lite productions she wrote and directed.
Nudged Ben into singing loudly for the cheap seats.
Gypsy, Miss Saigon and Les Misérables were in constant rotation.
Emmy slinked around in a pink bodysuit, crinoline skirt and feather boa as Gypsy Rose Lee.
Her signature move was dipping and dropping a frayed shoulder strap.
Ben had the last laugh.
He learned Jiu Jitsu.
Emmy never messed with him again.
Now adults, they’re tight friends and confidantes.
They make each other laugh like fools.
This has been a cruel year for all of us.
Zoom helps. Maybe 60%.
Ben pays Katherine a quarter every time we share a rusty anecdote or groaner pun.
Katherine will be a wealthy woman come August.
Ben larks around laptop in hand.
He aims it towards the tent pitched in the living room for fun.
He points out their latest home improvements. Like the screened-in porch and backyard upgrades.
Proud, maybe a little show off-y, he’s an enthusiastic realtor.
Luna’s perched on the couch, fawny limbs splayed unselfconsciously.
Positioned to highlight well-turned ankles. They are pretty cute.
Ben and Katherine are getting married soon.
Emmy’s working on an “Aunt Lorraine” lip sync video.
Allan Sherman songs never sounded as funny or looked so glam.
Every few weeks we’ll watch a movie “together.”
We watch them watching.
I feel bad because I can’t rub Emmy’s back.
My husband Lew and I are last to Zoom off, reluctant to close the portal.
It’s a jolt watching them blip off.
But they’re not really gone.
Their photos are everywhere. There’s one of Emmy and me, heads touching.
Ben and Katherine’s proposal pictures are propped against the orange Café du Monde can. It holds my paintbrushes and a black Sharpie.
Photos cover walls.
There’s Emmy squinting in the Tucson son. Ben standing with windswept hair in a Rosthern, Saskatchewan parking lot.
Ben’s sculptures and origami boats are scattershot.
A blue beaded octopus from Emmy tops Lew’s desktop speaker.
Emmy sends brown boxes filled with meticulously wrapped presents.
Tiny gold and silver stars spill on the floor.
Frankly, it was a pain to pick them up.
Now we sprinkle them here and there on the floor.
At night they twinkle, like Emmy’s eyes.
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com