I’m supposed to be making a lion.
It’s Sunday, and my son and I are sitting cross-legged on the living room floor.
It’s one of those rare moments during this coronavirus ordeal when I don’t feel like a terrible parent. It’s shameful, the amount of time I’ve had to park my child in front of a screen to get some work done.
Scattered around us on the floor, we have an assortment of blocks: Mega Bloks, Duplo and, of course, the traditional Lego.
“Do you want to build a lion, mommy?” my son asks me. It’s more of a demand than a genuine inquiry.
I tell him “OK,” but instead I do what I always do when we play blocks. I begin organizing them. First, by make. Then, by color. It’s a meditative act — a way for me to force order in a chaotic reality. A chance to slow my worries.
The black, white and gray Legos go together. This includes tires and steering wheels.
Will I lose my job, I wonder.
I like to put the red blocks with the purple and pink ones. There usually aren’t too many purple and pink blocks — not enough to justify a pile of their own, anyway.
How do I get my son to wear his mask?
The orange and yellow blocks make perfect sense together.
Will my son’s preschool go out of business?
I put all the blues together, but it always annoys me that they’re so many different shades: Primary blue, baby blue, navy blue. I fight the urge to institute a subcategory of blue blocks, organized by shade.
What if my parents get sick?
Like the blue blocks, the green ones come in more than one shade: grass green, apple green and hunter green. These blocks are usually larger and flatter than the other blocks, and are meant to serve as the base for a Lego house.
Assuming I keep my job, how do I cope with the fear of knowing that each day that I go out into the office is another day that I might bring the virus home to my son and my husband? How do nurses and doctors and food workers and cleaning crews and the police and transit workers and journalists and firefighters cope with that fear now?
I also have a miscellaneous pile where I put all the Lego people’s body parts and accouterments. Heads, hair, legs, capes, helmets, hands, backpacks, skirts, swords, etc.
Will our democracy survive this pandemic?
I snap out of it when my son persists.
“Are you trying to build a lion, mommy?” He can clearly see that I am not.
“I’m working on it,” I lie.
I put my color-coded exercise in compulsion to the side and turn my attention to the lion project.
When we are done playing with the Legos, I know we will indiscriminately dump the blocks into the toy bin, destroying my ordering efforts. This will bother me a little bit, but I’ll shrug it off. After all, this is a pandemic. Order and control are, at best, fleeting and at worst, illusions.