The letter is three pages, handwritten on lined paper. There are four coloring sheets, completed, and a small postcard, also colored. I’m in a pen-pal relationship with my aunt. I send calligraphy, drawings, blank coloring sheets, and, of course, my letter. You would think I would send drawings from my daughter, but she has always had great distain for creativity-on-demand and work that is sent away. Besides, she’d rather make something in 3D anyway. Many a time I’ve had to explain to a disappointed grandparent that they would not get a drawing out of her to complete their grandchild-art collection.

My aunt is in her 70s and lives alone in another city. I bought her a set of nice coloring pencils and a coloring book for the first time over 20 years ago now. Since then, she’s had several art exhibitions at her senior center and been featured in their campus paper, including one very recently when she papered her windows with her drawings for others to see while socially distanced. Even with her arthritis, she continues to work on her pictures. At first, everyone was amazed at her aptitude for color, shading, control, and even pressure. Until then, she had shown no aptitude for this kind of creative work. She prefers scenes, like kittens in a basket by a garden, instead of abstract patterns. You can tell by the way she colors them what is interesting to her.

She is special; special sometimes means difficult, definitely means different. Many things that we take for granted are hard for her. The way COVID has changed her world is hard for her to understand, there is so much fear now — the loneliness was there before. It is a comfort to know that she lives in the moment. It is always now, the past is always being rewritten as the present, now. When this is over, perhaps the new now will replace these strange times. In the meantime, I have to think of something to put in my next letter. It’s my turn.

Writer, researcher, observer