The following essay is by Jack Champlin, age 11, from Long Beach, CA.
On a regular school day my dad is my alarm clock. He wakes me up. I tell him to go away. He comes back in five minutes. This time he means it. He slings me over his shoulder and carries me out like a duffel bag. Sometimes I fight it. He usually wins. But once I give in I’m excited for the day ahead. I arrive at school. I find my friends. Sometimes we play basketball before the bells rings, or maybe just talk and hangout. No matter what we do I can be myself.
Sometimes my teacher lets us out early for lunch. I run to the cafeteria. A stampede of students stomp all around me. The hungry pack pushes and shoves to be first. I duck under the poles, and jump to the front of the line. Relief flows through my body.
I sit with my friends in the back of the lunch area. Everyone is there: Lucas, Derek, Owen, the other Owen, Steven, Sasha, Irving, and Kobe. Lucas’s lunch box bulges as he puts it on the table. He opens it and candy erupts like a volcano. Everyone begs for just one piece. Derek trades a bag of Doritos for a Kit Kat. SweetTarts are my favorite, but I never make an offer.
Stacey brings his soccer ball. It is a white and green Nike ball that smells like goalie gloves. You can feel the lines carved into it as you touch it. I kick it and the sensation is light and pure. Lucas passes, but he overshoots. The ball whooshes past my ear when it goes by. I like that sound.
But now I don’t go to school. Not since March 13. Now I am my own alarm clock. I get up when I want, but what is the point? Sometimes I struggle to pull off covers on top of me. Everything has changed.
Teachers give us work to keep us busy, but we don’t learn anything from it. I eat lunch at my plain old brown coffee table. Sometimes I have hot dogs with avocado, or maybe it’s a turkey sandwich with pepper jack cheese. After eating I lean back on the couch and watch TV for as long as possible before my next Zoom meeting. Half the class won’t be there
Before, school ended at three-forty, everyday. No it’s at two. Free time used to be fun and I needed it. Now afternoons inch by, like a snail crossing the sidewalk. In the backyard I juggle with a soccer ball until I get a new high score. Sometimes I play baseball and it helps me forget. I slap balls into a net, but nobody can hear the crack of the bat but me.
I imagine what the world might look like in the years to come. Kids go to school in masks. Desks are six feet apart. Students eat lunch alone. The future is scary, but also unclear. COVID-19 could bring out the worst, or the best of us.
I hope that in the future human beings become grateful that we survived. Some of us will have lost family. It’s going to be hard. But if we come together we can defeat the virus. Maybe we will learn to live with less. We can get stronger, but I don’t know if we will.