As the children’s voices rang out “and the home of the brave” in the final crescendo of the national anthem, I felt tears coming to my eyes and goosebumps on my arms.
The moment was remarkable because it was so utterly ordinary and I was overwhelmed by just how wonderful ordinary could feel.
Friday night, sitting in the stands of the Buffalo High School gym, was just another high school basketball game in a small town where the locals turnout to cheer on the home team. The pep band played the Bison Fight Song and the fans clapped along enthusiastically. The sea of black and gold-clad fans stood as the players were announced, just like they have done for decades.
But, Friday night was also the first time in nearly a year since legions of fans were permitted inside the gym to cheer on the Bison and Lady Bison. Almost one year since life turned upside down and we got acquainted with concepts like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve.”
As neighbors greeted each other in the aisles and hallways, one thing was clear: We had missed each other — deeply. We missed the small talk and conversations about our kids and whether we’d get more snow. We missed watching kids play basketball and make music. What we had missed most were the very things that led so many of us to raise our families here in the first place.
I watched as my nieces and nephews and children’s friends went back to school this fall using online learning. Some of them switched to hybrid models after Christmas, but many of my friends’ children are still learning remotely. I am completely aware that the fact that our children are in school, all day, every day, is nothing short of a miracle. In fact, I hesitated to even mention in conversations with my friends and family that our kids were playing soccer, putting on band concerts and swimming competitively all while their children tried to do school work from their family’s kitchen tables. They want so desperately for their kids to be in school with their peers and teachers; it seems cruel to casually talk about all the things my kids are doing in addition to going to school.
And on Friday night, all those emotions just came spilling out. Sadness, gratitude and joy mixed with some measure of, “Did all those things really happen?” and a healthy dose of relief.
It turns out that the light at the end of the tunnel just happens to look an awful lot like a basketball game in a small town gym.