COVID-19, Israel, Israel experience

I See You

For 15 months I haven’t seen you. You’ve been behind that mask.

No, not the mask you wear around your heart, or the one you use to keep your guard up.

I mean your real, tangible mask. The mask that has hidden your beautiful smile for all this time; the one that you’ve worn to protect me while I’ve worn mine to protect you.

I remember the first time I wore a mask at the grocery store. I walked in without it, thinking I would look silly or that I’d be the only one in the store with it. But I quickly realized that almost everyone was wearing one. And that I didn’t look silly with it – I looked responsible. And there it has stayed all this time.

For well over a year, we’ve had masks covering the house; the kids have heard the refrain “Don’t forget your mask!” as they ran out the door. We’ve found masks everywhere – in pockets and purses, in the wash and on the floor.

For 15 months the virus has swirled around us and consumed its prey; Israel has closed, and tentatively reopened, and closed again and again; for all this time, we have huddled in our homes, watched our children learning on Zoom, learned how to work remotely, struggled as we isolated from our friends, our family, our community.

And now, suddenly, it’s over. (Or at least we hope and pray that it’s over.)

And the masks have come off.

I see your smile for the first time in over a year.

It’s a slightly worn, definitely more tired smile. It’s a smile that has survived so much; a smile that watched a father’s funeral over Zoom; that watched a brother-in-law die; that watched so many people struggle physically, emotionally and economically.

It’s a different smile than it was 15 months ago.

But it’s there.

And, hopefully, with time and a chance to adjust, it will brighten and light up the room again.

As it once did.

And someday, I will reach into one of those pockets and pull out a mask, forgotten there long ago.

And shudder at the distant memories it evokes.

But for today, it is enough that I can see your battle-weary smile, and that I can smile back with understanding and joy.

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