Yesterday evening the smoke seemed to clear out quite a bit here in Eugene and I was so incredibly relieved, we kept talking about how rough it’s been and whew thank goodness at least THIS particular 2020 bullshit is over, and then I woke up this morning and it’s baaaaaaaack. (Sky gods: NEVER CELEBRATE TOO EARLY.)

A friend in California described living with this smoke so perfectly: It feels oppressive and surreal in a season that already felt oppressive and surreal. Our family is lucky (at least so far) in that the air quality hasn’t brought on migraines, breathing issues, or anything like that, but it’s just flat-out upsetting — dark weird light, no sunshine, a constant acrid stench of burn. Like all the doom and anxiety floating around in our brains has somehow been made physical.

The kids’ first day of school got pushed back a week, and I suspect it may be further delayed since the poor air has impacted the district’s ability to hand out devices. There are still a number of kids who haven’t been able to pick up their iPads/laptops, plus who knows how many don’t even have an actual house at this point if they were in an evac zone.

I have yet to really get into the weeds with this whole virtual school business, but it sure seems like it’s going to be … fraught. Just the process of getting signed up with Canvas and linking a student/parent account was A Whole Fricking Thing, and now that I’ve finally seen Dylan’s middle school schedule – which involves three entirely different schedules each week depending on whether it’s Day A, Day B, or Day C — I just can’t imagine how it’s not going to constantly feel confusing as hell, on top of being such a tragic overall alternative to in-person learning.

To be clear, I’m glad we were not faced with the choice of going in-person or not; I fully support the school district’s decision to start the year virtually. Still, it is hard not to mourn all the losses that brings, particularly the kids continuing to be so isolated from old friends, with essentially no opportunities to make new ones. Riley is super bummed to be starting high school this way, and even Dylan, who is not exactly Mr. Hooray for Academia, says he’d “give anything” to be in his 7th grade classes for real.

Well. What a mess. I feel like I have been saying that since March: oh, what a mess, what a terrible mess it all is. Inadequate words for a year that seems like it will never, ever end.


8 Responses to “Bad air, bad vibes”

  1. JennB33 on September 17th, 2020 1:33 pm

    Glad you 4 are safe. Please stay that way. <3

  2. rebecca on September 17th, 2020 1:49 pm

    My son started 9th grade fully online three weeks ago. He has loved school every minute until this year. High school was always going to be hard but this is a fresh kind of awful. My 5th grader is mostly bored. I hope the air clears, literally and figuratively, soon for you. If nothing else, your boys are not alone in the “back to school but not really back” funk.

  3. ML on September 17th, 2020 2:16 pm

    I heard someone say this smoke is a quarantine with in a quarantine. Ugh. I am really glad you all are okay.

  4. PETE J HAIDINYAK on September 17th, 2020 2:18 pm

    Glad you and your family are safe. I wasn’t sure which side of the 5 you lived on.

  5. Elizabeth_K on September 17th, 2020 3:54 pm

    I keep telling my three kids (3rd, 5th, 7th) that their generation will never say “I hate school” or “I wish I didn’t have to go to school.” We are in second week of online learning and they ALL (parents, teachers, kids, principals, etc.) are trying so hard, and it all SUCKS. It’s SO much … less … than in person. But, 2020. Man, as Victoria Guida said on Twitter, ‘I’m beginning to think “hindsight is 2020” was some kind of message from a future time traveler that we all misunderstood.’

  6. Mariya on September 17th, 2020 3:58 pm

    I absolutely identify with you! We’re in the Seattle area so we have been getting pounded with the smoke from California and Oregon’s fires along with fires of our own – one of which was in Bonney Lake, the town I grew up in and was incredibly close to the childhood home my Dad built. It sure feels like a slow roll of devastation month after month, week after week. As if COVID, racial reckoning and the election weren’t enough stress! I had a hard time with Canvas too and when I finally got set up as an Observer I felt so accomplished that I deserved a dinner out just for figuring it out..haha…but you know…COVID and hazardous air (so no outside seating). I feel awful for my 1st and 4th graders missing out on the social aspect of school – 6 year olds really thrive off being able to learn in a social environment and a 9 year old’s easiest way to access friends socially is through gaming which is damn near impossible to limit considering the circumstances. On top of it all, I’m definitely one of those statistics of Mother’s having to leave the workforce in order to help with remote learning and care for our children. It feels like a Greek hell to be sure.

    With all of this being said, I do find myself continuing to end up back at being thankful that I have a home to hide from the smoke in (albeit too warm and muggy), the ability to pay bills without much worry and we all have full bellies. I think taking stock of all that we’re privileged to have helps keep me from going off the deep end psychologically.

    Here’s to hoping this never ending year actually ends and doesn’t end up like a horror version of Groundhogs Day! Hang in there Mama!

  7. angela on September 19th, 2020 3:14 pm

    Clicked over to share about remote learning: gird yourself mama, it’s a tough slog.

    We just finished week 4. Our teacher’s are doing a great job, but it’s still so hard to keep a 3rd grader and 6th grader organized! Thursday night I burst into tears when I realized that I uploaded my third grader’s work to the wrong day in Google Classroom.

    Just be kind to yourself is my only advice. Good luck!

  8. Abbie on September 24th, 2020 11:11 am

    Thanks so much for your writing.

    So sorry you are going through all of this. Your post about the air reminded me of living in NYC after 9/11. I was on the Lower East Side, and the air smelled of burning buildings for weeks after. Your writing really brought me back to that time in my life. Hope you stay safe and that school goes as well as it can.

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