“GOOOOOD MORNING MY DAPHNE!” exclaims Thomas, my older cousin.
He is still a room away, shuffling full speed to the kitchen in his PJs. Thomas is a goof in the morning and it is impossible to predict what he’ll exclaim or what funny pranks he will play before he is completely awake. Thomas lives with a developmental disability and before the pandemic he was living in a group home out of state. Thomas and his younger brother are my cousins and although we grew up together, it’s been a couple of years since we’ve lived altogether under the same roof. But, under this “new normal” Thomas’s animated morning announcement, whatever it might be, is a new constant in my morning routine. It has replaced the bustling sounds of the city I had come to expect from my morning commute. It is a part of my day that makes me smile.
Under “normal” circumstances you wouldn’t find us racing to get pizza toppings onto a crust while my uncle holds the pizza stone and my aunt cheers us all on.
You probably wouldn’t find us all sitting at the dinner table together at 6:30 PM sharp every night for a home cooked meal. We wouldn’t catch Thomas in the act of wearing sweats over his PJs as he runs to hop on a video conference for school or my aunt begging him to brush his teeth. I wouldn’t have to worry about holding in a laugh on a video conference call while watching my cousins sneak their latest project into the basement “quietly”. We wouldn’t have the opportunity to laugh together— even if it is at the expense of my uncle for indulging his sweet tooth. At the end of the night, you probably wouldn’t find the time to really notice how much you like the smell of the kitchen counter cleaner like my aunt and I do.
And under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t get a daily reminder of how funny, animated and curious Thomas is.
We all live busy lives and are never home at the same time. As stressful and scary as these times are, I find comfort in embracing the simple moments of joy I know I would not otherwise get to experience. I appreciate this chance to be reunited and to spend this quality time with my family. Even when I have to remind him regularly, “not now, I’m reading” or “please don’t, I’m on a call” I appreciate that on a Tuesday at 2:30 pm I normally don’t get to see Thomas. The days are not without challenges and I know we are all in different boats, but for me, living under the same roof with Thomas again has helped me to slow down, to be present and to come to count on that morning exclamation.