I remember op-ed pieces that came out when the plague first hit that were all about journaling through this nightmare experience for posterity, like a 21st century Daniel Defoe with a neglected WordPress account. For me, this has been a horror that I hesitate to commemorate, and I had hoped that 2020 would be the only year when I would tell stories of the plague.
It was not to be.
It took me a long time to write this introduction to a series that was a bittersweet creation. There’s so much of my child’s life that I want to celebrate – I mean, they just turned THIRTEEN. Thirteen is pivotal. It’s a rite of passage – and circumstances have dictated that this is a strange initiation, indeed. I want to celebrate, not mourn. I wanted to be able to tell tales of Lilith’s adventures and discoveries, of their laughter and their joy, untainted by sorrow, melancholy, or loss.
They just turned thirteen, for fuck’s sake. It should have been glorious.
But here we are. Lilith has embarked on the first steps of their bildungsroman in a three-ply disposable medical mask, wielding a tube of hand sanitizer, pushing back against the pallid, leprous wings of Pestilence that hover over the globe.
Eheu fugaces labuntur anni, and now two of these fleeting years have been spent under the yoke of Covid.
In 2020, the Lilith series was very difficult to write because the plague had descended midway through that year and the pain was still sharp, the shock still vivid, the sorrow still raw. It’s a year later, and this series is, in many ways, much more challenging. We have all existed in a fugue state since March of 2020. Hopes were raised, dashed, and raised again. I feel like there was a week? a month? of something that edged towards normalcy, only for that ephemeral wisp of calm to be swallowed under another wave of disease and sorrow. The span between September of 2020 and today saw so many changes, violently fluctuating spikes of desperate hope and near-despair all bound together by exhaustion. This year, it’s almost harder to create this series because… because so little has changed, and my grief over Lilith losing another year to the pandemic is sometimes too much to bear.
As I write this, I have received another notification that there has been a positive Covid case at Lilith’s school. This is what I mean: second verse, same as the first. We are still trapped in an ouroboros of terror and absurdity.
In many ways very little has changed in the world since the pandemic hit, though we’re churning through volcanic revolution every minute of every day. In the past year, we’ve seen an insurrection, an enduring plague, the stripping of reproductive and voting rights, climate catastrophe, the unending horror of gun violence…. Generation Z is bearing witness to so much darkness. Too much darkness. I hate what we’ve done to the world; we are giving this generation a host of terrible gifts. Lilith, I am so sorry for the burden that the generations before you have laid at your feet. I’m so fucking angry, and I am so fucking sorry.
Lilith has faced all of this with so much courage, strength, and grace, far beyond what I think I would have been capable of at their age. These trials have changed them during a time in their lives when they are already going through so much change. Thankfully, 2021 has seen some shifting, some emergence from the sorrowful cave of lockdown. There have been some new experiences, some blissful reunions, and every single one of these moments has been a balm beyond imagining.
Lilith, you have gone through many names, many hair colors, many aesthetics, and many identities in these past two years. A lifetime of changes. Lilith, you are fire and fury. You are lyrical and mighty. You are rebellious, righteous, and utterly, utterly yourself, and I love to see you sneer in the face of adversity. I admire your ability to advocate for yourself and I am in awe of your fearlessness in calling out cruelty and hypocrisy and your devotion to protecting those who cannot protect themselves.
Lilith, you are so brave. So fucking brave. But I am so, so sorry that you have to be brave. I wish I could have handed you a better world.
Maybe next year, I will have less cause to rage. Maybe next year’s birthday series will be filled with photos of journeys, experiences, and parties. Maybe, with some hard work and good fortune, our world will be brighter, larger, and safer.
Maybe next year, you won’t have to be as brave.
Lilith, you are the light in my darkness. You are my soul and my heart; I will never love anyone the way I love you.