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Opinion: What Our Children Will Remember

Raelene Critchlow, 86, receives a visit from her great-grandchild Camille Carter, 6, on Thursday at Creekside Senior Living in Bountiful, Utah.
Rick Bowmer
Raelene Critchlow, 86, receives a visit from her great-grandchild Camille Carter, 6, on Thursday at Creekside Senior Living in Bountiful, Utah.

Our oldest daughter turned 17 yesterday. It's quite a time for a young person to have a birthday.

I've covered wars where I got to know families with teenagers, and I would ask parents, "What do you want your children to remember of these times?" The answer was almost always: "Nothing. I want my children to remember nothing of all this."

This coronavirus is not a war. Yet, as in war, there are long spells of tedium, interrupted by episodes of anxiety and sometimes danger, loss and grief. No parent wants their children to carry that load through their lives.

But, any parent learns how children rarely remember what we hope. You may want your child to remember when they saw the Eiffel Tower or met an athlete. What they really recall is the ice cream they had at the end of the day or a man with the lizard tattoo they saw on the subway.

I hope that when both our daughters think back on this time, they'll remember how many good people worked so hard to keep the world running, often at risk to themselves. They're often people we can take for granted and identify just by a job title, a nurse, a driver, a cop, a sanitation worker or a clerk. I hope our daughters will know their names and remember how much we owe them.

I hope our daughters will remember, too, how they found their own ways to help people now: to walk the dogs of neighbors who can't venture out, to play with children whose parents have to work and to write cards and make calls to make people smile.

I hope they'll appreciate the ingenuity of their teachers, who've tried to devise new ways to fire their young minds. And I know they'll remember how their mother has held, nourished and cared for all of us in all ways.

In a way, these times may help our children appreciate the fortitude of their grandmothers, who are now gone. They lived through world wars and many hard times but carried themselves with lightness, grace and humor.

A few days ago, I came upon our daughters as they shared a joke. I asked, "What's so funny?" and they said nothing — and traded smiles as I turned away. I imagine the joke was on me, and I was delighted. I hope they remember that joke, and their closeness. I hope they remember that when the world may seem cold or dark, they can turn to each other and feel the sun.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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