Everyone is more than aware that we’ve reached the one year mark with covid. For Ireland, March 13th was the day that everything changed. I went to work that morning and that afternoon we sent the entire studio home in taxis with their computers, which is how we’ve been working ever since. The pubs were closed down. St. Patrick’s Day was cancelled. It was a Friday the 13th to rival them all.
A year on, the pubs are still closed down. St. Patrick’s Day is still cancelled. But vaccines are rolling out (glacially slow in Ireland!) and there is hope that we are at the beginning of the end. The pandemic has been hard for everyone (some more than others of course). And everyone has had different things that helped get them through it. And you know what’s helped me the most?
Saige is my 7-year-old niece who lives back in the States. Her parents allowed her access to facebook messenger for kids and she just started calling me one day when the lockdown first started. And she’s been calling me nearly every day ever since. I’ve lived in Ireland the entirety of Saige’s life, so my time with her had pretty much been limited to my visits home in the summer and at Christmas. Well, there were no visits home for me this past year, but Saige and I got to know each other better than ever through our virtual visits.
We did all sorts of things on these calls. She called me yesterday to show me what she got at Target (for those interested – a blue raspberry and cherry slushie, sunglasses, tic tacs and a kinder egg), Saige taught me how to use filters on my phone – though I’m still not a fan of them. We played a “dice” game called Pass the Pigs. I met all of her dolls and stuffed animals, learning everything there is to know about LOL dolls, Shopkins and Beanie Boos in the process. I watched her dance. I listened to her sing. I watched her draw and paint – she was very excited to start working in acrylics. We baked huge oreos out of regular oreos (I don’t know. It was something she saw on youtube). We made paper snowflakes to decorate for Christmas, and we both got matching Baby Yodas – hers from Santa and mine from… her.
When we first started our online exchanges, Saige would complain that she wasn’t smart and that she couldn’t read very well. But I’ve been able to witness her reading getting stronger and stronger first hand. At Halloween and Thanksgiving, she read me some poems she’d collected in a binder. She has written several stories for school – including “Kalli’s Big Leap”, starring her real-life dog. She now dabbles in both fiction and non-fiction. She also reads to me regularly now. Our current favorite is the Sesame Street classic starring Grover, The Monster at the End of this Book. Recently she even messaged me picture of a poem she wrote about writing a poem. Mind. Blown.
Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t inform you all that she also got a 100+% on her math test last week – the + is because she got the bonus question right. She was nearly jumping out of her skin when she called me to show me that test. I’m not sure who was more proud – her or me.
I know that eventually, Saige won’t call me anymore. Like with my older nieces and nephews, school will get more intense, there will be sports and clubs and friends and jobs and everything else that goes with being a teen today. And that’s okay. I know that’s how things go. But Saige and I have had something really special over this past year. I’m not sure she’ll ever understand this, but Saige has truly helped me survive this pandemic. My lockdown would have been so much harder, so much lonelier, so much worse, without her.
As we enter the Covid pandemic’s second year, I truly hope that all of you have managed to find your Saige and that your year has been made even a little bit easier as a result. Everyone should have a Saige to help them get through these difficult, unprecedented times.