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Karen Osborn


Today my oldest daughter brought over a cake. She carefully set the box on the pavement halfway up our driveway. She lives nearby and these masked driveway deliveries have become our rituals. Back in March when it was cold and we didn’t have masks, she stopped at the end of the driveway and did a little dance for us after setting the bags down.


The cake is for my younger daughter’s wedding tomorrow. It is six inches across, with black and white frosting, and the words “Congrats Shannon and Ken” in red. It is a pretend wedding cake for our pretend wedding reception after the zoom ceremony. Five weeks ago, I decided I was going no matter what, just for the morning, or even just for one hour to stand at a distance and watch, but then there were all those bathroom stops on the 7 hour drive and my daughter and her fiancé’s nightly attendance at the protests. She called and said, “I want you here, but I don’t want you to come. I can’t stand for you to risk it.”


So tomorrow morning, four of us—my older daughter, her partner, my husband and myself—will socially distance on our deck with separate screens and watch a ceremony limited to an under 40 minute zoom account session.


When she dropped off the cake, my daughter said, “It’s black and white, appropriate, don’t you think?” Yes, black and white for many things, most obviously the racial disparity, which is now so glaringly obvious (I just watched 13th on Netflix. I knew that too many black men were in prisons, but 1 in 3? How did I not know that?). Black and white for what I know and don’t know, black and white for before and after (if there is a bridge between the two, I can’t see it). Black and white for the sick and the not sick, the masked and unmasked, those sheltered and those not sheltered, the young and the old, the healthy and the compromised, the haves and have nots. (In a zoom meeting, when a college where I teach said it would support faculty with extended leave time, bereavement counseling, and extra benefits, I asked, “What happens if adjuncts get sick?” The answer—even our small salary would end.)


Our pretend wedding cake is dark devil’s chocolate inside, dark for the distance between all these things, dark for the miles between Maine and Massachusetts, for the difference between a small group gathered for a mountaintop wedding and screens filled with the tiny squares of the rest of us watching.


“No matter what, we’re going up for a celebration next June when this is over,” my husband and I tell each other. Some days I believe this, but other days I have to recognize that over exists across a vast chasm. Hope and longing lie in between. Still, right now, as I’m setting up the technology for our daughter’s zoom wedding, I have to believe we’ll get there somehow.

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