Life Is Rico (Even In A Pandemic)

By Licensed Professional Counselor Deborah Miller

In one week’s time at the beginning of 2020, our future son-in-law arrived in America for the first time, we hosted a bridal shower for my daughter, and our first grandchild was born.

The days of family celebrations seemed to run together. We went from one party to the next as long-awaited events were taking place. We were all together.

And then the world shut down.

Prior to the shutdown, we had visited our granddaughter and her parents weekly. She was new and healthy, and we were all enamored with her. Every week we would see tiny changes in her little body.

A Gift of Hope

Then came the day we were pretty sure this visit would be one of the last for a while. Her mom wasn’t allowed to enter the pet store for dog food, and we knew things were changing in our world.

My husband and I had stayed behind with this tiny 4-week-old treasure while her mother gathered supplies. And as I rocked her, I sang to her for one of the first times, thinking about the hymns and lullabies I was singing.

These were songs about mockingbirds, roses, and moon shadows. Songs that had been sung to her father and grandfather by their grandmothers – women who had sent husbands to war, buried children, and survived cancer.

They were songs about faith. About having strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Songs that reminded me, even in this uncertain moment, that all I needed had been provided to me.

And I realized that, although the world swirling outside the door of her new nursery was preparing for a global pandemic, this tiny, one-month-old girl I was just beginning to know, gave me hope.

A Rico Perspective

It brought to mind a word my (then) future son-in-law had used on his first night in our home: rico (rich/hearty). He had spent several months of waiting for the fiancé visa approval and after his first plane trip, arrived on U.S. soil.

Thankfully, even with the months of waiting, he was with us when we all gathered around the hospital bed with my son, daughter-in-law, and their new baby. The delivery nurse took our first family photograph with all of us.

The word rico captured much of how he related to his new home.

He did not complain about the cold February weather of Pennsylvania. He didn’t get anxious when grocery stores reported dwindling supplies of toilet paper. He would eat a meal with us and say he felt feliz y lleno (happy and full).

He stayed busy, too, painting our kitchen cupboards and planting vegetables in the backyard. And he didn’t mind that his future in-laws were now home all day with him as they adjusted to working from home.

A Simple Wedding

To satisfy his visa requirements, my daughter and son-in-law had to be married within 90 days of his arrival. So we orchestrated a simple backyard wedding, attended by just a few.

Our priest came wearing a commissioned stole thoughtfully crafted of fabrics worn by family members long deceased, including pieces of my son-in-law’s beloved Salvadoran grandmother’s dress.

My daughter laid down a rug gifted by her grandparents so she could feel their support under her feet.

She did not wear her wedding gown, hoping someday to have a bigger celebration where her brothers were able to be present. There were no handmade favors to be distributed; no catered wedding reception.

I asked the neighbors to be quiet for the short ceremony under the pine tree in our city yard. One of them joined us at the back gate and, with tears in her eyes, recited the Lord’s Prayer with us aloud in this sacred space without stained glass windows.

Our priest called it anarchic to hold a wedding during a pandemic. I just knew the day made me feel feliz y llena.

The Gifts Around Us

And so the gifts of hope and resilience over the past two years were given to me in the body of an 8-pound baby girl with curly brown hair, in a grown man committed to loving my daughter for a lifetime, and in thousands of other small and big moments.

True: there have been weary days of racial injustice, death, and disconnection. There have been many days of wondering how much longer this will last.

But most days I try to remind myself: life is rico.

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