November 04, 2021
My refrigerator is covered with memorabilia. Mostly it holds art made by my son. There are a few school pictures held up with magnets, and a picture of the two of us from a few years ago, and some cherished postcards. But pride of place goes to a front page from The Berkshire Eagle from last December.
For the last few years, my son has had the honor of kindling the first lights on the North Adams city menorah. The first year I think he pulled little chains attached to the bulbs. In year two, the city electricians changed the mechanism; now I think it's a matter of screwing in each bulb a bit.
He loves lighting the lights of Chanukah alongside the big light-covered tree, and being on the front page of the local paper is exciting too. In years past, I've clipped out just the Chanukah story to put on the fridge. But last year I saved the whole page, because of the story that appears alongside.
"Vaccine endorsed by panel." It was such enormous news, last winter. Against all odds, medical science was prevailing against a previously unknown virus. A quarter of a million people had died in the US by then, but help was on the way. As soon as the vaccine was approved, we would be safer again.
Sometimes I miss that moment. I couldn't have imagined then how disinformation would be weaponized -- lies about microchips, or the government tracking us. I couldn't have imagined how many people would insist on their "freedom" to continue spreading a mutating pathogen.
Last Chanukah, the news of the first vaccine was light in the darkness. Today brings another miracle: my child will receive his first dose of vaccine. Cases are low where we live, and masks are required at his school; in general I think he's safe. But oh, the relief of knowing that he will be safer!
And the relief of knowing that his vaccination makes others safer. "It's just me-versus-us thinking," he said to me this morning. "If I'm just thinking about me: I don't like getting shots, so I wouldn't want to get the vaccine! But I have to think about us, like, the whole community. We live in a society."
"I wish everyone understood that," I replied, dropping him off at school. When I think about how many people resist masks and vaccines, I despair. When I think about my child getting his shot, all I can say is shehecheyanu v'kiyimanu v'higianu lazman hazeh: how lucky we are to be alive right now.