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Essay: Waiting

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In Barbara Miner's essay, Waiting, she dives into her experiences throughout the pandemic and her arrival at being hopeful.

Lake Effect essayist Barbara Miner has been writing about her experiences throughout the pandemic. Miner, a local writer, photographer, and producer has been vaccinated and has a new outlook on the pandemic. She reflects on it in her essay, “Waiting.”

I have spent much of the last year waiting. But I didn’t realize how profoundly COVID had shaped my sense of time until, during the dark days of the fall, I picked up Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” Perhaps, I thought, the play might offer some perspective.

Waiting has defined my life in this era of COVID. The first time was when my husband and I watched the news as COVID spread from China to Seattle and the cruise ships. What did it mean? Only time would tell, it seemed. We waited.

And then Gov. Tony Evers issued his stay-at-home order on March 25. The question that had dominated our thoughts – would COVID disrupt our lives in Wisconsin – was answered. Then we waited to answer a new question: would the horrors we were reading about in New York spread to the Midwest?

Every morning, we scoured the newspaper and the internet, searching for the latest news on COVID. Was it safe to go to a grocery store? How long should you wait before you unpacked those groceries? Were Wisconsin’s positivity rates up or down?

In September, we foolishly thought it might be safe to visit our children in New York during the Christmas holidays. By the end of October, that dream had ended. Without a doubt, the fall was the worst. We didn’t wait for much of anything except time to pass. The days grew short. Our patience frayed. Painful numbers of the dead and dying kept escalating.

That’s when I decided to read “Waiting for Godot.” But, it turned out, it was a bad idea. In the first scene, the character Estragon notes: “And is it Saturday? Is it not rather Sunday? Or Monday? Or Friday.” The play’s absurdity hit too close to home. I stopped reading.

By mid-January, things were looking up. Joe Biden was president, Dr. Fauci was once again on television, and every week, more people in Wisconsin were getting vaccinated.

Once a vaccine seemed a reality, we waited for an appointment, but we didn’t mind. After almost a year of waiting, what was another week or two or three?

And now, having received that magical second dose, we are planning what we have wanted to do more than anything else in the last year – visit our children.

Perhaps because it is spring, or perhaps because we will soon have survived what was once unthinkable, a year of COVID, I am no longer waiting to be hopeful. I am hopeful.

In January, I asked on Facebook what people have missed most during COVID. Some said they were waiting to travel, others to eat at restaurants. Young mothers, not surprisingly, were waiting for schools to return to full-time, in-person teaching.

But more than anything, people were waiting to once again experience that most fundamental of human needs – to touch. They wanted to dance with friends, kiss their one-year-old grandchild, visit their 90-year-old uncle. Or, as one person put it, “I am waiting to hug mom. Or anyone.”

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Barbara Miner is Milwaukee-based journalist, photographer and producer. Her work has appeared in news outlets ranging from WUWM to The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Milwaukee Magazine and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.