All of us have done our best to remain as calm and healthy as possible in the midst of working from home, virtual school and social distancing. The truth is it can be too much for any family, even one as close as ours. We all needed a break.
Our first COVID trip was a surprise Father’s Day trip to Dunwoody, Virginia. There, we met our cousins who’d also been social distancing and quarantining at home. Though we were apprehensive about pandemic travel, being in nature helped. Unbeknownst to us, Frii and Phoenix packed their swimsuits and asked if we could go to the beach instead of going home. Having spent three months in the house, we understood the girls needed a break; we did too. After talking it over, we booked a hotel for two nights at Virginia Beach.
Equipped with our wipes and Lysol, everything and everyone was thoroughly sanitized before we entered our room. At the beach, we ordered chairs and umbrellas to take the necessary precautions of creating our own private oasis. What we noticed was that, while we had been in our homes following the CDC guidelines to the letter, others were outside and they were living. It caused us to imagine what it would look like to find glimpses of life in the midst of constant messages of death.
And, in doing so, we realized that it was possible to move around safely. Following our Father’s Day trip, we went to Pittsburg to visit family. After being bombarded with daily death announcements on social media, we decided it matter to lay eyes on some folk. Again, taking necessary precautions, we quarantined for 14 days upon our arrival. While in Pittsburg, the girls went shoe shopping with their aunt and splurged at the outlets with their grandfather. We’re still trying to figure out how Phoenix spent $60 on hair scrunchies! But spending time with our family is exactly what we needed. While we stood in collective grief with all who’d lost loved ones, we knew that it was important to celebrate and cherish those who remained.
During the school year, “Flex Fridays” became an opportunity to explore our new home state of North Carolina through day trips. While the girls weren’t so enthusiastic about Boone, the HBCU tour in Greensboro and Ethiopian restaurant in Charlotte were a hit. And then there were the trips to Charleston this past April and June, where we took walking tours, learned about educator and activist Septima Clarke and ironmaker Phil Simmons, and poured libations and spoke the names of the Emanuel 9 at Mother Emanuel AME Church.
Yet, it was a moment at The Chop Restaurant that is most memorable from that trip. In a space where we could count the number of Black folk, Frii thanked us for the experience because she told us that it taught her that “life could be different for us if other routes were taken.” This is true. Every route taken in our lives lead us to our family and to these moments we get to share together.
Traveling in the pandemic has given us the opportunity to reflect on life’s journey and enjoy each other’s presence. We don’t have to always reach for the phone to snap a picture; we can consume the experience together. It’s also taught us the importance of balance. Even in the midst of death, there is so much life. In a time where they’ve not been able to spend time with their friends in over a year and a half, the girls say that it’s taught them that family is key.
As we look forward to our summer travel to Savannah, Nashville and St. Louis, we’re bonding as a family in ways we couldn’t have dreamed. From staying at Air BnBs for the first time to allowing 11 and 13 year olds dictate the radio station for hours before we ask if we can listen to Biggie and Tupac, we are making the memories that will keep us laughing and talking for years to come.