I don’t know if I can effectively articulate how difficult it has been to create this year’s series. What stories can I tell while we stand here together on the precipice of the abyss?
DragonCon falls on or around her birthday every year, and that’s usually the demarcation point where one Lilith/Parenthood series ends and the next begins. I remember Lilith and Chrissy both cosplaying Catwoman on the same night. I remember taking Lilith to get a photo with David Tennant, and I remember Ted, Brian, and m’self all dressing up as Chattering Order of St. Beryl clergy. I remember seeing all our con friends, our Georgia family, I remember the restaurants we always go to in Atlanta. Who could have known what a difference a few scant months would make?
I remember autumn. I remember the crazy car she made out of CDs and the bridge she constructed out of popsicle sticks for her engineering class. I remember Lilith putting on a yellow rain slicker so she could take a photo with Pennywise at Dark Delicacies. I remember taking Lilith to Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square for her birthday, and I remember her building a droid. I remember watching Lilith play chess with her best friend through a dirty window. I remember taking her to pool parties and haunts, to museums, playdates, and dinners. I remember taking her to record her music in a professional studio for the first time. I remember chaperoning her chorus retreat at the beach. I remember what she wore for Halloween.
I remember winter. I remember orientation at her new school – she would be entering middle school at the school of her dreams the next fall! I remember dropping her off to perform at a retirement home, and I remember dropping her off to perform at Disney Hall. I remember Lilith taking her belt tests and practicing her sparring. (Her kung fu studio is closed now, like so many other businesses.) I remember her catching a cold right when we arrived in New Orleans, and I remember the tarot reading she got in Jackson Square. I remember Lilith playing in Audubon Park, and I remember the boy that kept showing off to try to get her attention. I remember bringing Matilda home with us, and how she puked on Lilith during the ride home. I remember Lunacy events and Lilith’s charity fundraisers. I remember her moments with Krampus and I remember Yule. I remember New Year’s Day, and I remember wondering what the year would bring.
I remember spring. Spring hurts.
I have photographs of Lilith that were taken on the day that we all realized something was terribly, terribly wrong. I have a photo that was taken on our trip to Disneyland for my birthday, minutes before I got a news pop-up on my phone that Covid had hit the States. You could feel the air change, and it was like a dark hum was slowly reverberating through the park; people were suddenly avoiding touching railings, and everyone in the bathrooms seemed to be washing very thoroughly all the way up to their elbows.
We washed our hands between every ride. We didn’t touch anything if we could help it. We scoured the park for hand sanitizer.
On the ride home, Ted and I discreetly had a very serious talk about what we need to do if Something Happens.
I have a photograph of Lilith at the last chorus rehearsal before the shelter in place hit, and I remember someone reaching out to shake my hand. I flinched — recoiled — and said, “I’m so sorry, but we’re not supposed to do that anymore!”
I remember the first masks I bought for our family. I remember what the shelves in the market looked like. I remember the moment I stopped touching my face. I remember the scarcity, the fear, the uncertainty, and the change. I remember the moment everything changed.
How do I write this series? How do I explain how strong she has been, how sensible and courageous? Do I talk about how she began processing her anxiety through horror makeup? How helpful and kind she has been? Do I talk about her sorrow or her boredom? Her isolation or her ennui? Do I talk about how political she has become, how she brims with the rage of justice? Do I talk about what it’s like to be a parent during plague? Or what it’s like to raise a child when you live under the spectre of authoritarianism? Do I talk about loss, regret, and sorrow? Or do I focus on the bright moments in dark times? How honest can I be? Do I talk about how she counted the days until school would begin, just so something would happen? Do I talk about hope?
I don’t know how to do this.
Lilith, I love you. This pandemic has brought so much catastrophe and so many terrors, but the gift that it has given me is the time we’ve been able to spend together. You are my meditation buddy, my yoga partner, my debate opponent. Not only are you my daughter, but you are one of my dearest and most cherished friends. I can’t tell you how much I treasure our relationship. All the many jokes, stories, and fears that we have shared with one another in these past months… it is wonderful beyond measure, and I can’t tell you how much this bond – our bond – means to me. I love you, Lilith. I love your righteous fury, your need to protect those who are not empowered to protect themselves. I love your snark and your sweetness, your compassion and your vengeance. You are mighty, my daughter, and I believe in you. I always have, and I always will.
There are many poems that make me think of you, my daughter, but in these dark and uncertain times, this one is the first to spring to mind —
…Hush, for it is dark,
and will grow darker still. We must embark
directly. Bring an orange as the toll
for Charon: he will be our gondolier.
Upon the shore, the season pans for light,
and solstice fish, their eyes gone milky white,
come bearing riches for the dying year:
solstitial kingdom. It is yours, the mime
of branches and the drift of snow. With shaking
hands, Persephone, the winter’s wife,
will tender you a gift. Born in a time
of darkness, you will learn the trick of making.
You shall make your consolation all your life.
– excerpt from Lullaby, Amanda Jernigan
You know the trick of making, Lilith, and you will change the world.