The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us. However, there has been one silver lining – identifying the things we can be thankful for has never been easier.

By Callie Atanasoff | all school, Student Life

The following column appears in the December 2021 issue of Prairie/Report of Giving. 

August marked one year since we purchased our first home. We’ve lived in other houses, other spaces, but this place – these walls are the culmination of patience and planning and being humbled (and more patience) and finally feeling at peace when the keys became ours.

The previous owners left a swing set in the backyard that is arguably underwhelming to many six or seven-year-olds (“The swing should go higher, the slide is too small”). But I will never forget the pampas grass rippling in the breeze that first night at home as I sat on an empty patio, watching my kids laugh and play on this new-to-them contraption. I felt the kind of joy that is consuming, so intensely illuminating the space around you.

The identification of joyful moments: somehow with all that has been swirling around us, it feels as though that has become easier to do, more deserving of appreciation. At Prairie, being siloed last year meant more than keeping kids in their respective classrooms; as faculty, we found ourselves disconnected from each other, from the community that is so inherent to our school. We slipped out of one semester and into the next, hoping for the opportunity to come together.

Then the spring musical happened. Outside. Evidence that “against all odds” demands once-in-a-lifetime innovation and an entire theatre department banding together – sawing, hammering, painting – to build the Pat Badger Amphitheatre. Spamalot’s stage was bordered by trees instead of brick, and the weather kept its urge to send showers at bay. I found myself on a blanket next to a few of my colleagues, sunglasses perched on our heads so our views of each other were unshielded. Because seeing someone in person, watching them laugh, hearing about what’s going on in their classrooms and how their new puppy is behaving at home and discovering they picked up an interesting hobby doesn’t need to be filtered. Another example of all-consuming joy.

I would venture to say that others at Prairie noticed these moments, too. Talk to a Leadership Society member in the Upper School, and they might recall a summer afternoon spent meeting new students and an impromptu game of kickball. First days of school always have confetti-like energy, but this year parents gathered in front of Door 2 to sip coffee and stay awhile, to celebrate the return of a busy fall calendar, field trips, and quick classroom visits at the end of the day. Our food service team welcomed the community into the Dining Room with open arms, like mothers feeding their hungry college kids returning home during break.

We’ve all had to pivot and change plans in the last eighteen months, to learn the art of being patient. And I can see more of those lessons coming into my line of sight. What makes that easier to stomach, though – what makes it worth pressing on – is taking the time to pause and reflect. To choose the joyful moments and put them out there in the world. Prairie is on a mission to collect these stories, and we would love for you to join us. If you have a special Prairie memory, a moment that impacted you during your time on campus, we want your fellow classmates, your teachers, your Prairie community to hear about your joy. It’s time to spread the light.

Callie Atanasoff is the Director of External Relations. Her column “The Last Word” appears in each issue of Prairie Magazine.