Perhaps you saw it. On social media, or in a chain email. A poem that seemed like a hopeful sigh went out into the world very early in the pandemic last spring and made its rounds as quickly as the virus.
And the people stayed home.
And they listened, and read books,
and rested, and exercised, and made art,
and played games, and learned new ways of being,
and were still….
It wasn’t long before And the People Stayed Home was made into a children’s book, and I ordered it immediately when it became available. It was backordered for months and has had multiple printings. I finally received mine a few weeks ago.
It’s a larger book — one of those I have to lay horizontal on my bookshelves. The art is pretty perfect for this spare poem, this prayer for our time in lockdown. At 113 words, it does not attempt to address every aspect of this complicated time in which we live. What it does do is feature some of the things those of us who can stay home have been doing during this time — at least during our better moments. Meditation … dance … thinking differently … challenging ourselves to learn new things, think new things … be in new ways.
I read it to my regular Zoom storytime group. They had playdough at the ready. (Zoom Tip: Busy hands on Zoom helps with focus.) I asked them to work the playdough and watch the illustrations as I read. I read very slowly. I held the book as close to the camera as I could so they could see the art.
Then I asked them to make something with the playdough that has been either good about this pandemic time, or bad about it, or something they were looking forward to when the pandemic is done. They worked so hard — they pummeled that playdough. They stretched it and rolled it, flattened it and wrote in it, sculpted it and…created amazing things that helped them voice their thoughts and feelings about this time.
They enjoyed bike rides, chalked sidewalks, and games. They missed grandparents and cousins and friends. Some liked school at home, some couldn’t wait to get back to in-person learning. They were “still a little mad” about not being able to go on vacation, and not starting kindergarten. Many were upset that not everyone would wear a mask. They liked summer more than winter. They liked dance parties after supper and on-line storytimes. They sculpted very accurate looking coronavirus models and slashed X’s through them. They wrote the word BAD in playdough letters. They acknowledged that not everyone could stay home — such astute empathy — and that some who could chose not to. You could tell there were conversations at home about these things.
Book Therapy I call this. (I suppose we might give a nod to the playdough, too.) The youngest among us are a resilient lot, perhaps because they can give voice to what has been lost and gained during this time.
Have you made your list of the good and the bad of this past year or so? I took a stab at it (sans playdough) after our zoom storytime was done. It is an interesting exercise. Worth writing down, I think. I wonder how much we’ll forget about this time, and what we’ll remember? I wonder what aspects of this time will result in lasting changes? I wonder what stories these children will tell their children and grandchildren.