On Being Worth a Thousand Words

Looking back through photos from 2020, many memorable moments highlighted a year unlike any other. In choosing one to sum it up in a single shot, this picture stands out for what it means looking back and forward.

I have two kids (and a third on the way for 2021!) as well as a wife wonderful beyond words — all of whom I love with every fiber of my being. They continue to keep me grounded, reminding me of what’s important in life. They featured in so many of my favorite moments from the year, making it difficult to narrow it to one.

This picture of my oldest (he’s five now) was snapped back on March 7. Just four days later, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. On that Saturday night, we went to a performance of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony by the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra.

Little did we know how fitting that work would be. That iconic (da-da-da-DAHHH) opening served as a precursor to how drastically the world would change in the weeks to come, at times over the course of hours. A slower, lyrical second movement represents the collective breath we all took as the slowdown settled into our lives before finally building, as we hopefully are now, to a triumphant finale.

My son’s smile, captured in one of those last moments of innocence and normalcy, represents not only what was taken from our lives by having to stay masked or apart. It also represents the hope I have for his future.

I spent much of my fall serving as his assistant teacher with virtual learning. While I may have been forced into the role through not being able to be as involved, I’ve learned a lot about my own perspective when it comes to family time. Finding a better balance is something I will try to carry forward.

I’m amazed every day at what both my children are learning. I am also thankful beyond measure for my son’s teacher for investing her time and energy in virtual learning.

My oldest talks a lot about not being able to do things because of the virus, and I wonder what he will think or remember when he looks at this odd year decades from now. For my part, I will always treasure his smile in this picture — a bright light in an, at times, overwhelmingly dark year.

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