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  • Writer's pictureKristen Cole

Dear Sweet Annie

A quarter pound of butter, 1/2 a chopped onion, 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 tsp brown you thought I was going to give you the full secret recipe to my Pappa's rib sauce, didn't you? So sorry, but I cannot. It's a family secret. But it sure does smell good right now simmering on my stove as we let the ribs set in their special rub waiting for their turn on the outdoor smoker. The sauce will be lathered on throughout the cooking process. The whole experience, a labor of love, tradition and full family memories.

These moments help me to be present in the now. When I stop to smell the sauce, taste just a smidge of it to be assured it would pass my dad's approval, hear the slow boil warning the need to turn down the temp, I just can't help but to just be. It's the same when I watch my boys play baseball and my girl float across the living room floor in lyrical dance. It happens when I cuddle my baby patients despite my mask and eye shield, see my people over zoom or WebEx and especially when I dive deep into my bible study with Priscilla Shirer.

I haven't written for public consumption in a while. Covid was one thing. The added racial inequity and subsequent fall out of humanity has been a lot to take in as a healthcare working mom raising white children right now, two of them boys. There have been days I have truly not wanted to get out of bed. But - because of those three little impressionable people I am raising, I have and have pressed on. As a mom, I really don't see that I have a choice in that. My get up and go, resolve to be an example for them is stronger than any negative news station or hate driven campaign.

I participated in an Expressive Writing and Resiliency of Parents during Covid19 study through Duke for 4 weeks in June. It was truly one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It helped me so much to see myself from other's perspectives, to see other people's perspectives and to recognize those people whose perspectives I admire and long to emulate. I thought my first post back I would use what I learned during that time to write a letter to my future grandchild about what I learned and about what I hope she carries on.

Dear Sweet Annie –

Your mom was only seven during the COVID19 pandemic. It was a strange time for sure, one that I never would have hoped for as a mom. When I first heard that school would be closed, races I had planned to run in had been cancelled, my clinic at the hospital would be closed, baseball and softball would be cancelled, stores would close, we could not leave our houses, we would have to wear masks, we could not see your great grandparents…it was scary! The first few months were really weird as we tried to figure out how to work and do school from home. Your mom was a rock. She was always smiling, just like her usual self. She did a lot of dancing during that time and we enjoyed swimming at our pool for the one hour and 40 minute time slots every other day, that we were allowed due to safety and cleaning.

We learned a lot about seeing the silver linings in all things. Your mom was so good at this. She loved going outside and looking at my flowers and watering them whenever I asked. She looked forward to popcorn and a family show every night and she always thanked God for her family in her bedtime prayers. Having two big brothers in quarantine was surely trying at times, but the three of them really played with each other and with me and their dad more and we truly bonded as a family. We baked cakes from scratch, we caught our first blue crabs that we cooked ourselves, we cuddled with Max, our wonderful puppy, we went on family walks, we had many family meals, we snuggled together to watch movies, we rode bikes to get ice cream pops, we played piano virtually, we saw our families via zoom and web-ex. We went fishing and canoeing at your great-grandmother’s farm, where Max learned to swim and Uncle Landon learned to take the hooks out of fish. We wore out scooters and helmets and had to get new ones. We talked about lots of hard stuff and always remembered that God was the one that was always our steady. Your mom and your Uncle Connor did bible class together and loved the interaction with Sunday School on the screen and when they got letters in the mail with cool VBS projects to do at home.

Your mom drew a low of beautiful pictures that we hung on the fridge. She always drew rainbows, hearts and some really creative water colors. And she danced a lot. Her dancing was so expressive during that time. She would wisk across the floor in such grace and air that I would watch in awe and immediately feel the freedom I saw in her sweet soul. A softball player first, she hesitated to ask about taking ballet again, but finally mustered up the courage and said, "Mom, I really would like to dance again." Those older brothers can’t bridle a dancer's heart like hers. Your mom was the bright spot we all needed on a daily basis during the pandemic and the terribly distressing racial discord and inequity we found ourselves in. Though we took turns being the light, she shined brighter, as usual and really helped us to focus on the good in our home and in our world. What a dear sweet strange time it was, but one we all learned from and truly became better as a result.

Let us all be like my Lindsay. She believes in God, His love and sharing his love with others. She does not know hate. She loves people for who they are, not for the color of their skin. She believes in what science says, simply because her mom does. She wears a mask to protect the vulnerable and doesn't attach it to politics. She and her generation are our future. Let us be present in that right now. Let us watch the Lindsays of this world dance, shine and spread joy. There is joy to be had, my friends. It's truly a matter of perspective. Let us all look up, realize that there is a bigger purpose in all of this and take time to learn from our younger generations. It doesn't have to be hard. We all fall short, every single one of us, but we all have the capacity to love one another. And in my opinion, that's where the real change starts.

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