By Deirdre Greco
For 30 years I have been the director of the Hope Day Care Center. 120 children attend the Center. It’s time to announce my upcoming retirement.
Thank you so much for the wonderful care you have given our daughter, Hannah. You are a big part of why she feels so secure and confident in her abilities. I was so nervous when she started at the day care center with barely a word of English and only six weeks in her new country with her new family. I needn’t have worried. Thanks to you she is a happy child looking forward to new adventures.
The Cormoran Family, especially Hannah”
I just wanted to say thank you. I appreciate the way you so willingly try to meet staff needs at Hope Day Care Center. When my daughter got sick and I needed time off, you made sure I received it and was paid. I know that I am loved and affirmed by you, as the Director. That makes a huge difference in all that I do.
The many letters, my supervisor’s eloquent and complimentary speech, I was blushing with pride. It made me realize how important my 30 years at the Center were for so many babies, toddlers and preschoolers, their moms, dads as well as all of the teachers. Then came a large check, put together with money donated by my fellow managers at the hospital which sponsors the Center. I blushed again, this time with embarrassment as I remembered the many times I had received requests for donations for other managers and hadn’t contributed a thing.
I sat at the head table, breathed in the scent of the two dozen white roses, enjoyed the catered roast beef dinner, and luxuriated in my “oh so perfect” little black dress, the dress that emphasized my slim waist and de-emphasized my expanding hips. I felt true satisfaction for a job well done.
And finally, at the end of a perfect evening, the crowd gave me a standing ovation.
But, that’s not what happened.
Robert Li’s dad is standing in front of my desk. Robert is a preschooler at the Center.
“I am the father of Robert Li and I am very sorry to tell you that Robert will not be coming to your school anymore.”
“Oh, dear. We will miss him. Is there something that we could do better so that you will feel comfortable bringing him to school again.”
“No, we like your school. The teachers have been very nice to Robert and he wants to come back but me and Robert and his mother will not be leaving our house for a long time or talking to anyone but our family. We are from Wuhan. All of my elders are dead and now we know that the new virus will be coming to America and so we will be staying in our apartment.”
I remember thinking, “What an overreaction. Even if the virus comes to America, it won’t be that bad.” I tell Mr. Li how sad I am that they are leaving. He says that he will be back once the virus is under control.
On March 1st there is an announcement that there is one case of Covid-19 in New York. Officials give the comforting news that they are in complete control of the outbreak. President Trump and assorted local politicians assure us that we have nothing to worry about and so life at the day care center goes on as usual.
Thursday, March 12th The Center Art Show.
The four-year olds host their parents and grandparents. Everyone is excited about the Andy Warhol-like images the classes have made. Families take pictures of their children with the robots they have created out of boxes, paint and aluminum foil. Paper flowers peek out of painted jars. Our only worry on March 12th is whether we will get the meeting room cleaned up in time for the next event being held there.
What we don’t realize is that on March 12th, there are 328 reported cases of Covid-19 in New York State.
Monday, March 16, terrified parents, terrified staff. Hasty goodbyes, phone calls letting us know children and staff who will not be coming.
Thursday, March 20, 20 children out of 120 now attend the Center. Nine teachers out of 25 teachers now work at the Center.
I know that I will sound self-centered and selfish and I know that I am right now. I’ll get over it and I recognize that a “goodbye dinner” is nothing compared to a world that is changing daily, to the deaths of thousands of people. I want to find ways to help all of the suffering people, but, if you were looking forward to a wedding, a reunion, a baby shower, a graduation or a birthday party you probably know how I feel. Somehow we’ll get through the pandemic. We are a nation filled with strong and resilient citizens.
For me it may take a roast beef dinner, two dozen white roses, an “oh so perfect” little black dress, a standing ovation and the world going back on its axis.
I’m Deirdre Greco from Albany. I’m a recent retiree who has always known that retiring is not really for me. I have two children and two grandchildren all whom I’m missing. As my granddaughter remarked, “I’m tired of family in a box, I want to hug them.”