A Minute in the City 7-21-2020: A New Class of Learners

Last fall I attended a recital of SLSO principal cellist Daniel Lee at the World Chess Hall of Fame. It was an amazing reminder of just how wealthy our city is in terms of talent. We have world class musicians here, chess champions, notable athletes, historians, authors. And spaces to honor and celebrate them all.

This spring many of those spaces went dark as COVID chased us into our homes continue. But celebrities of all stripes – some of them local – were kind enough to light up the internet with their talents. Last week, thousands of school children joined them, parked in front of their computers for their daily Zoom calls.

I had the distinct honor of hosting two of these children for their first week of school, and I will continue to do so for as long as I can. At eight and three, my grandkids are learning what it means not only to learn, but to be sociable during a pandemic. And, because their minds are young and malleable, they are figuring this out faster than the rest of us.

After all, they have spent a significant portion of their lives in quarantine – 1/16 and 1/7, respectively. As sad and weird as that seems to us, it has become almost normal to them. They are figuring it out. They are taking stock in the smallest victories. They are showing us how to stay open to the possibilities.

I watched with amazement this week as my grandson deftly shared his computer screen with his teacher to trouble-shoot a technical issue. During this exchange, teacher and learner talked about Legos and movies. (You know…all the important stuff that life is made of!) Down the hall, my husband – who works in IT – was also sharing his screen, also going over a problem with a colleague. The ­­­­­parallel was not lost on me.

It just isn’t that long a span between school and the working world. This historic year, as troubling as it is, may fast-track the process and give us a new class of self-starters, curiosity-seekers, and world-class talents. Future musicians, athletes, historians, and authors are stumbling over the building blocks of their crafts right now. Aspiring chess players are sitting over their boards with knitted brows, planning out plays and contingency plans. I am one of them.

At the very beginning of COVID, I begged my husband to teach me chess. We both needed something to push our anxieties out of the way, and I needed to connect with the game I was featuring in my 2021 calendar.

Our games are painfully slow. Sometimes hours turn into days. And sometimes we throw up our hands and say, “I don’t know!” because we just can’t see how it’s all going to play out.

Our chess game is a metaphor for COVID. But, like our grandchildren, we’re learning. We’re taking stock in the smallest victories. And we’re trying, trying, trying to stay open to the possibilities. Maybe that next move will take us to a better place.


The World Chess Hall of Fame is featured in my 2021 YEAR IN THE CITY calendar and is also available as a print and a bookmark. All can be purchased through Q-Boutique at the World Chess Hall of Fame or online at ayearinthecity.com.


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