Commentary: The name of the game for our family is warding off the tedium. This week, a surprise snowstorm was the earliest snowfall on record for our city. It wasn't the dusting we usually get — even in the peak of winter — but substantial snow. The white blanket lured my children out at dawn to make snow angels and pelt each other with loose snowballs.
It was a small moment that gave the kids a break from routine. Our days keep melding into one another, the only shift being the weather or the shape of the moon. To combat that, we're attempting to do things we have to do anyhow — like make breakfast — but switch up the way we do them.
Our city is nestled into a valley and framed by the high, jagged peaks of the Organ Mountains, which allows us to forget we're in a desert. There's a picnic area near the mountains' base, a 20-minute drive away, so we loaded up the disco — a large pan that is heated with propane — as well as bacon, eggs, coffee and our clumsy dog, whom we usually leave home.
The picnic tables look on to the side of the mountain range, which has the desert climbing its heights until the rocky barrenness takes hold. The sun plays with the clouds or just shifts its angle in the sky and nearly continually moves the shadow animations against the rocks. You can stare at the expanse for hours, and I was reminded of how I used to do so with my husband before we had kids. He and I would drive up with a six-pack and lunch and spend hours watching the mountains and each other. This time, we were watching our two kids roam gleefully around the picnic table and not watching the befuddled dog, who ventured out into the brush too enthusiastically and then needed to get cactus spines removed.
I still mull over the question of why I never left this town, reminded of the prodding from my professors at the local university, then from older friends, then from those who kept saying that the town was boring, there was nothing to do and we'd have to drive to the bigger cities to do anything at all.
Except I realized that along the way, I transformed the city just by spending new phases of my life in it. When I was at the university, it was a city within a city: My classes, my apartment and even my job were all in walking distance. When I moved off campus, I shifted my perspective of the city just slightly, interacting with different parts of the community. Marriage and then children each opened new spaces in the same town in which I could exist, creating vastly different experiences than just five years earlier.
During quarantine, new spaces have been created out of old ones simply from repetition. The backyard became a whole new playroom for the kids. I've walked the neighborhood in circles and waved at even more people in passing because I wanted to reach out to others who might be stuck pacing the neighborhood just as wearily.
In the next few weeks after the election, we'll have to work on transforming ourselves and our places. We will interact with our neighbors in places that we recognize but are less charted with past social norms. We may be more bitter, more depressed or more hopeful, but we'll recognize that it's up to us to transform our places, and our country, into the next version of themselves, which will lead to the next phase of our lives.
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at email@example.com. To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.