OP-ED: Use Pandemic To Create Generational Bonds & Memories and Strengthen Ties To Family

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By Jennifer Stark

FRAMINGHAM – Back in May, when I learned that my kids’ camps were closing for the summer due to COVID-19, my “it’s going to be ok” attitude disappeared. 

My children spent most days lounging, staying up late at night, sleeping in, and eating everything in sight.  All the while, my husband and I juggled work, remote education, boredom, sibling arguments, etc.  Now, that light at the end of the tunnel I had been clinging onto–summer camp–became dark.  It was a depressing time for me. 

But soon enough I picked myself up and managed to cobble together a summer for my kids.  I bought the inflatable pool, dusted off the bikes, rented the water slide for a day, took trips to the beach, and allowed socially distant get-togethers with friends.  But it wasn’t until my father-in-law asked my 13-year-old son, Jonah, to help him clean out his garage that an unexpected silver lining emerged from this terrible virus.

Papa Charlie is known to be a bit of a hoarder – he prefers to call himself a “collector.” 

Realizing the shut-down presented a good time to throw out the furniture, keepsakes, and other junk, and knowing that Jonah desperately needed something to keep occupied, Papa hired Jonah to help. 

Each day that Jonah would come home from working at Papa’s house, he was filled with an excitement I have not seen since COVID-19 changed our lives. 

Papa showed him the original newspapers reporting the assassination of JFK and the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald.  He read Papa’s Hebrew school report card, flipped through Papa’s thesis paper from college at WPI, and held his dad’s childhood Boy Scouts uniform.  He heard about the time his Aunt Tammy worked at the Fanny Farmer candy store when he pulled her work apron out of a box, along with other family treasures like his great grandmother’s birth certificate.  He learned more about his Grandma Robin’s family when they discovered her mother’s baby shoes, and she gave Jonah a gold chain discovered during the clean-out that he now wears daily. Papa told Jonah about his upbringing in Springfield, and what it was like during the civil rights era. 

The time he and his Papa spent together was priceless (although Papa insisted on paying Jonah for his work!).  Jonah put away the Snapchat, the Insta, the Tiktok.  He broke free from the 4 family members he’s been forced to spend almost all of his time with since March 13th.  And he bonded with his Papa by creating special memories that I know they will both treasure. 

This pandemic has wreaked havoc on humankind. 

It has challenged me to try to remain positive. 

But this unexpected gift of quality time spent between Jonah and Papa reminded me of something:  “it’s going to be ok.”

Jennifer A. Stark is a Framingham resident.

editor

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