As I edited pictures from our recent Walt Disney World vacation, I paused at a picture of our 2-year-old son from our “rest day.” I hit the share button and sent it to my husband: “Pretty sure that’s when he had COVID,” I typed.
He wrote back: “yeah … but how could we have known?”
After 2+ years of doing everything in our power to avoid contracting COVID-19, we had picked it up as a vacation souvenir. (Thanks Mickey … )
We could’ve picked it up anywhere. In the long airport security line. Onboard the plane (during the 1st week the mask mandate was lifted). In the hotel lobby. In a ride line queue. In a restaurant. On a bus. On a boat. Even from Mickey or Minnie or Cinderella or Elsa or any number of characters we hugged (…during the first week Disney allowed character hugging ‘post-pandemic’).
We don’t know where or from who we got COVID, but we know who got it first. Our 2 year old son, AKA patient zero AKA the unvaccinated one. Of course, we didn’t know he was patient zero until after we had left Disney World, hugged all the characters, breathed on the others in the line queues, and rode on an airplane. They gave it to us, we gave it to them. COVID party for all.
Yet, we had known he was sick. On the 4th day of our trip, my son’s nose started running suddenly after lunch. The following morning, he woke up with goopy, red eyes. Ah, pink eye, we thought. We called our pediatrician and scheduled virtual visit … from our hotel room in Disney World. (Things the COVID-19 outbreak have made possible). The doctor virtually looked at his eyes and determined it wasn’t pink eye, but a cold that was coming out thru his nose AND eyes. (Kids are gross). She prescribed medicine in case it got worse or he spiked a fever. She also recommended giving him a rapid test.
I had thankfully packed rapid tests; so we administered his 14th (2 million and 10th?) test. It was negative, like all the others. Since he didn’t have COVID, I took the kids to the pool, while my husband Ubered to a nearby CVS (where he waited for the entire lunch hour closure only to realize it was the wrong CVS, and then took another Uber to another CVS and then another Uber back). It was a day.
Yet after pool and lunch, our son was feeling fine. So, we took the bus to Disney Springs to shop. It was here that he awoke from a stroller nap, red eyed, snotty, and spiking a fever (1st picture below). We headed back to the hotel, where he rallied on the bus. as his new Donald stuffy made everything better (2nd picture below, 20 minutes later). After a bath, the fever spiked again and fell asleep.
In preparation for the next day, we changed our Animal Kingdom reservation to EPCOT (since it was within walking distance), intending to switch off taking our daughter into the park and staying back with our son. BUT the next morning, 36 hours after starting symptoms, patient zero woke up feeling well, and really annoyed at the suggestion that his sister could meet Princess Aurora and he couldn’t. He put on his Bert hat and decidedly marched to the door, saying, “I meet Aurora. I go now. We all went to EPCOT. We had the perfect day. Everyone was healthy. We met and hugged: Aurora, Jasmine, Snow White, Joy, Vanellope von Schweetz, and Mickey Mouse himself. We rode all the rides, including my children’s favorite: Norway’s Frozen Ever After.
We let it all go. Because, when in Disney World, you should always follow Queen Elsa’s advice: LET. IT. GO.
It wasn’t until 3 days after our return home that my husband took a rapid COVID test on a whim because he suddenly just didn’t feel right. It was positive. Completely shocked, we all took tests. That night, my husband and son were positive. My daughter and I were negative. By the next week, just as the boys were released from their quarantine, the girls tested positive too.
After spending 2+ years avoiding COVID-19, it came it us. After spending 2+ years learning about the virus, variant, airdroplets, the efficacy of masks, ventilation systems, and mRNA vaccines … we still didn’t notice when COVID came to us … until after we had spread it around. By the time the boys tested positive, we had spent 2 more days in the Disney parks, flown on 2 planes, sat in 2 airports, were driven home by a friend, gone to work, attended school, had unmasked meetings with colleagues, taken our daughter to dance class, and had a babysitter watch the kids while we went out to dinner for our anniversary.
In the end, that felt like the worst part: giving COVID to the people we know and love. We beat ourselves up about it. Looking at that picture of our son from Disney Springs, we kept thinking to ourselves: he had COVID there! We should’ve known. BUT his test was negative … he gets colds all the time … he recovered quickly … so we didn’t know what we didn’t know.
We had to LET IT GO, for there was nothing else to do. So I re-wrote Elsa’s words to help us out (with deep apologies to Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez):
Let It GO-VID
The line grows red on the test tonight
We’re positive, you see
A family in isolation
And it looks like, I’m the queen
COVID has hit us like a swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it out, heaven knows I’ve tried.
Don’t let it in, don’t spread it free
Be the neighbor you always have to be
Wash hands, mask up, get your vaccine
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go,
It’s not like it was before
I can no longer keep it away
Let the virus rage!
COVID never bothered me anyway
Yet COVID has bothered us anyway. And, let’s be honest, the cold bothered Elsa anyway too. Even Elsa knows “letting it go” is easier said than done. After she gloriously sings that she’s let it all go, she’s still stuck up there scared in her ice castle until Anna saves the day (in my humble opinion, she’s the true hero of both Frozen movies…but I digress). Elsa tries to let go of her fears. Anna tries to let go of her loneliness. We keep trying to let go of control of a virus that cannot be controlled.
Right now, I personally know more people who are positive for COVID than I’ve known in the entirety of the pandemic. Of those, every single one of them was among those most cautious about the virus (my family included). We are the rule followers. The maskers. The social distancers. Those first in line for vaccines. Those doing everything they can to protect the vulnerable from a deadly virus. Those who took all this seriously and tried so hard to be good neighbors, good citizens, and faithful people of God. I’ve heard so many express the same guilt I felt: I didn’t know and now I gave it to someone else.
If you are in this position, I say to you: Dear friend, you did your best. You made good choices. You took necessary precautions. You got your vaccines. You cannot control a virus. You cannot control the uncontrollable.
Can you let it go?
In truth, this is what we’ve been preparing for (and dare I say hoping for) all along. We’ve been hoping we might be able to live with this virus that has taken so many precious lives — 1 million American lives this week, including a loved one of mine. We’ve been preparing our bodies to fight the virus when (always when, not if) we contracted it. We’ve taken precautions to care for those still vulnerable – the immunocompromised and those ineligible for vaccination. We’ve continued to pray over and over again for what lies ahead.
Can we let it go? Can we take a deep breath and breath it all out and give it all back into God’s hands? Having gone through hard times himself, The Apostle Paul once wrote to the church in Philippi: “God is near, don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5b-7).
God is near, dear friends. Which means, we trust and pray that all we’ve done in this time of crisis may be good enough … and we let God handle the rest.
May we let it go and let it God. For we don’t know what the future might bring, but we know that we aren’t the ones in charge. Or as Anna (hero!) reminds us, “some things never change, and [God’s] holding on tight to you.”