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  • NYS Writers Institute

Life during COVID: "The rewind button."

Winnie Yu, and her daughters Samantha Scherer and Annie Scherer
Winnie Yu, center, and her daughters Samantha and Annie

Today we're sharing an essay titled "The Rewind Button" by Winnie Yu, originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of Trolley.

Winnie wrote her story in May, 2020. Since then, she and her two daughters have adjusted to quarantines, masks, and social distancing. "We’re doing well, all things considered," she said. "I continue to cherish the time we have together and make a point of savoring it. I know I’ll look back with gratitude, even if it means they had to delay their launch into adulthood, and I had to wash some extra dirty dishes."

The Trolley we published last summer included works from more than 70 contributors. I thought we'd done our part to preserve some prose and some poetry at a singular moment in time. By now, I hoped life would have resumed with its chaos of the normal sort and we'd collectively toss our masks away like the opening sequence of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." We're gonna make it after all, right? Not so fast. I'll know better during the next pandemic.

It's been more than a year now. Vaccines have arrived, but COVID is still a scourge. For the next edition of Trolley, we'd like to hear from you. How has a year of pandemic changed you? How have you adapted, coped, fallen apart, or grown. How do you choose to remember the pandemic. We encourage you to submit your essays, poetry, short fiction, or photography.

Share your story, essay, poetry, or short fiction. We welcome submissions from all. More information on this call for submissions can be found at

If you have questions, send me a note at

Thanks and stay safe,

Michael Huber

NYS Writers Institute

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The rewind button

By Winnie Yu

Along with makeup bags, fanciful footwear and a darling cat, my young 20-something daughters are back in my house. Dirty dishes fill up the dishwasher in a matter of hours. The laundry machines whir almost daily. The recycling bin overflows with empty containers. After a slow march toward independence, the coronavirus has forced them to hit the pause button and return to the house where they grew up. Once again, we are under one roof. Annie was on her way to Los Angeles for an internship in the music industry this summer, something she is now doing remotely. Sammy had plans to move out and land a job with a sports team in a far away state. She is now juggling several jobs and hoping that her dreams still have a place in the new normal that is yet to be unveiled. Like the rest of the world. I am telecommuting. For me, that has meant a return to my home office, where I spent 15 years splitting my time between being a freelance writer and a stay-at-home mom. I must confess that I am not unhappy about this, though the nightly news has brought me to tears more times than I care to count, and I’ve certainly had my share of sleepless nights. If I could erase the pandemic and all its ensuing horrors, I would. In the absence of such powers however, I have chosen to focus on the good that has arisen from this situation. In addition to my one-minute commute, I am reveling in the fact that my daughters have not only pressed pause, but the rewind button. These days, we find ourselves reliving their youth, with shared cups of coffee instead of diluted apple juice, and viewings of “American Horror Story” instead of “Good Luck Charlie.” We have resumed nightly dinners, with me doing the cooking again, and them doing the dishes. At night, we make time for board games and evening walks, Wii Fit, and Just Dance. My daughters seem to sense that this is an opportunity to recapture their youth. They are watching old favorites like “The Incredibles” and reruns of “Get Smart” that they loved as children. They’ve swapped out rap and pop to listen to “The Cheetah Girls” and the soundtrack for “High School Musical.” Annie has found old movies she and her friends made in middle school. Sammy has discovered the joys of reading Harry Potter. Both have dug into the giant baby boxes I made all those years ago, filled with letters I wrote to them on their birthdays and calendars marking their milestones. Both come into my office during the day to share tidbits of their lives, just as they used to do. The stories are no longer about playground antics but about their jobs, friends and what they see on social media. What remains unchanged is the joy I feel just having them close by. Don’t get me wrong. We have our share of occasional spats and snarky moments, and the house is certainly messier these days. There is also plenty I miss about our pre-pandemic life. Card games with my elderly mom. Visits from out-of-town family. Sunday morning tennis matches with my partner John and our friends. But what a gift it has been to recapture this lost period of life with my daughters, a time that I thought had evaporated for good. What a gift it is to spend so much time with them again, when I thought we’d never have more than a few weeks together over the holidays and in between semesters of college. We are told that time marches on, that everything must change, and that all good things must come to an end. Most of the time, those platitudes are true. But what the pandemic has given me is a temporary reprieve from the forward momentum of time and the opportunity to revisit and relive a not-so-long-ago era of my children’s youth. For that, I am grateful.

Winnie Yu is a writer for The State University of New York, a former journalist and the co-author or author of nine books, including the award-winning Autism: What Every Parent Needs to Know (American Academy of Pediatrics). She enjoys walking, yoga, tennis, and time with friends and family.


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