Pandora And A Pandemic

Most people are familiar with the story of Pandora, who unfortunately unleashed all kinds of evils into the world, including sickness and death, when she lifted the lid from a gifted box. Many people don’t know, however, that one thing was left in the box before she quickly closed it again: hope.

So why am I bringing up the story of Pandora? For one thing, many of us are finding it difficult to think about any travel these days, let alone skip-gen traveling with a grandchild. The new coronavirus has unleashed sickness and death upon our global community and much of travel as we have known it has come to a screeching halt. Borders are closed, airports and airplanes are virtually empty. But just like Pandora, we must hold on to that one thing that remains: hope.

Most importantly, of course, we hope the scourge will be ended by a speedy and efficient combination of testing and wise leadership, medications, and a vaccine. We also hope for a return to life as we once knew it – or something closely approximating it.

And for us skip-genners, we hope for that new normal to include the opportunity to travel again with our grandchildren.

I originally wanted to call this post, “I Walk the Line” but my husband discouraged it because he thought everyone would think of the Johnny Cash song and its reference to fidelity. But the concept predates Johnny Cash and when I researched it, the first definition I came across was the maintaining of a position intermediate between two contrasting choices – and that’s precisely where I find myself.

I currently have a very special trip planned with my oldest granddaughter in honor of her 12th birthday (which was earlier this month and which was, unfortunately, celebrated with very little fanfare given the current situation). Of course, our trip – or at least lots of preliminaries related to it – was begun long before the pandemic, as outlined here in a previous post.

Because our planned trip is not until August, I am still “hoping against hope” that it will still be able to happen as planned. I should say as planned in its current form. It has already been modified several times. The original trip called for us to travel from Pittsburgh to New York City by train, stay there two nights while we took in a Broadway musical and then to fly to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, for a week’s stay. I considered it the perfect trip, involving travel by plane, train, and boat, and contrasts between busy city life and island life with all its tranquility and natural charms.

Alas, as I watched the pandemic evolve, it soon seemed that including a trip to New York City to attend a Broadway musical was perhaps not the best idea. Sadly, I scrapped the train travel (will have to save that for a different trip!), as well as New York City and Broadway. And as I tried to visualize navigating an international flight during these times, I decided I needed to find a different way to approach the Canadian part of our trip.

Since Sophia will not be reading this post, I feel safe is sharing some of the current details here. If you, dear reader, have any connection to my granddaughter, I am swearing you to secrecy, for the destination is still a surprise to her! We are currently playing “Twenty Questions” for her to figure it out.

And this is where I find myself “walking the line” – the line between not talking about it at all and thereby missing the fun and activity of planning versus talking up the trip so much that it greatly increases her disappointment if ultimately it can’t happen.

So, here is what I am doing so far, and I dearly hope it’s the right approach.

For her birthday, I sent Sophia a travel journal. In the journal, I filled out some of the entries to give her a few tantalizing hints: things like time zone, what languages are spoken, and items to pack. The time zone – Atlantic – was intriguing to her, as well as the languages, for I listed English, French, and Mi’kmaq (or Micmac, an Algonquin language). That last one really had her guessing, but I have faith she will figure it out, along with our final destination!

We will fly to Bangor, Maine, and drive from there to the ferry to PEI. This is one bonus to the change in plans: I greatly prefer approaching the island by ferry as opposed to the 8-mile Confederation Bridge or flying into Charlottetown’s tiny airport! Another bonus is that I anticipate an easier entry into Canada by crossing by car at an obscure border station, as opposed to navigating two international airports (Toronto and Montreal). Time will tell if that proves true. Either way, I don’t mind driving. I have been to Maine and the Maritime provinces before, and they’re all lovely.

Under normal circumstances, I would be in touch with Sophia every week, happily planning every detail with her. We would be looking at maps on Skype, I would have her reading history books, we would be looking up all kinds of activities and planning what we most want to do. However, now I plan to touch base with her only every couple of weeks; enough to keep the idea alive, enough to learn some interesting facts, but not so much that the anticipation reaches a fevered pitch. (We all want to avoid fevers these days!)

Keeping the idea alive. That’s hope. And that’s something we can model for our children and grandchildren during these difficult times. We can and should be realistic – but woven throughout that fabric of reality should be a few strands of hope.

Try your hardest to keep dreams alive. If the dream can’t be, it can’t be, but at least you’ll know you didn’t throw in the towel too soon. And that’s a lesson for our grandchildren that will last, regardless of the trip.

Emily Dickinson once penned, “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers – that perches in the soul – and sings the tune without the words – and never stops – at all.”

Sophia has already had certain things she anticipated for this summer canceled for sure (a two-week summer camp, for one). As she plays in her own backyard this summer, I want her to hear a little bird, high up in a tree, singing of a possible dream that might yet come true.