After the election, and after the wait for the General Services Administration to ascertain the results, and after the wait for the states to certify their results, and after the wait for the electors to cast their votes, and after the wait for Congress to begin fighting over the results, and after the wait to see what would happen on Jan. 6 as a consequence of Donald Trump’s incendiary tweets exhorting his followers to “be there, will be wild,” and after the wait for news as the mob stormed the US Capitol, and after waiting to see if the president’s incitement of a mob to storm the Capitol would have any kind of sobering impact on the 139 House members and eight Senators who had declared their intention to contest the election results even though 61 courts had seen no evidence of widespread fraud, and after waiting to see whether further armed protests would erupt before or during the inauguration, and after waiting helplessly as the COVID-19 numbers — the cases, the deaths — climbed while all this was going on, we finally made it to the moment so many of us had been waiting for. Joe Biden is president. Kamala Harris is vice president.
And now all we can do is wait.
It’s a different kind of waiting. Help, we are told, is on the way; and truly, it can’t come soon enough. We may be feeling more hopeful, watching competent experts approach the pandemic in a systematic way, but we’re also exhausted and bleary and experiencing the kind of longing that passengers used to have at the end of an interminable sea-voyage, when land was finally in sight, and they suddenly couldn’t wait for the trip to be over.
We’re waiting to do all the things we used to take for granted and will never take for granted again. Waiting to get a haircut. Waiting to go to a concert or a ballgame or a birthday party. Waiting to browse in a bookstore. Waiting to sit around a dinner table with friends. Waiting to hug them. Waiting to see our grown kids again.
A friend waits to hold her first great-grandchild, born last spring. My husband waits to visit his 90-year-old mother in Florida.
Friends wait for kids to be back in school. Friends who teach wait for the schools to decide whether the students are coming back or not.
A friend who owns a small business waits to see if she is supposed to be open or closed and, if she does open, she’s waiting to see if her customers and employees will show up, and waiting to see if she can make it financially.
People wait for stimulus checks. People out of work wait to see if they’re going to be evicted or if their mortgages will be foreclosed.
We’re waiting for vaccines. We’re waiting for instructions about where and how and when to sign up for vaccines. We’re waiting for all health care workers to be vaccinated. We’re waiting for all the people in nursing homes, all the people over 75, and all the teachers to be vaccinated. We’re waiting for data about the long-term effectiveness of vaccines. We’re waiting for news about whether the vaccine rollout will outpace the spread of the new super-contagious virus variants.
Some of us are sick and waiting to get better. Some are waiting for a spouse or parent or child to get better. Some are waiting for news of a friend or family member who is in the hospital. Some are waiting for test results. Some are waiting for seven days, or 14 days, before getting tested again. Some of us are waiting to be able to go and visit a friend who is mourning.
We’re waiting to see if the cycle of infection can be broken — not only the viral cycle but also the political cycle. We’re waiting to see if we can at least start to agree on facts even while continuing to disagree on policies. Waiting to see if America will finally learn that when it comes to public service, quiet competence beats chaotic celebrity. We’re waiting to see if the powerful will be held accountable. Waiting to see if the rest of the world will start to trust us again. We’re waiting for spring, and for summer, and for next fall. We’re waiting to sleep well again. We’re waiting for the days of the week to become discernible again. We’re waiting for the numbers to go down, and stay down.
We are all waiting for a time when we won’t have to be waiting all the time — when the rhythm of life stops being suspended and starts moving forward again.
Joan Wickersham’s column appears regularly in the Globe.