Counting to 100

Sometimes I feel as though I’m still coloring with the big crayons. 

Big crayons, that come just five to a box, that give you the most limited spectrum—nothing like magenta or cerulean blue or chartreuse, the names of which I read to my buddies in first grade, when we’d all graduated from the five-pack—but that make it possible for your chubby hand, still learning fine motor skills, to wield a marking wand of some kind, usually in frustration. 

It wasn’t a thing when I was a child, but by the time our boys were in school, 100 Day was a big deal in kindergarten. 100 Day marked the 100th day of the first year of school, signaled the hopeful milestone of all the children being able to count that high, and offered some hope (80 days left!) to teachers who got the short end of the class distribution stick that year (which included our middle son’s kindergarten teacher; she retired in June). The homework was to bring 100 of the same type of object to school to share with the class. 

It was a multi-faceted assignment: You had to choose the object, imagining its scope times 100 and the feasibility of transporting it to school (and home again, without subtraction, unless it was, say, Skittles), count it carefully with your parents, realize how many 100 is, pack it up, and explain it to your classmates the next day. It needed to have an element of shock and awe—this was 100!—and sesame seeds counted to 100 aren’t that impressive, it turns out. 

Our middle son chose Matchbox cars, which—thanks to my brothers handing our boys a legacy fleet from their own childhoods, in addition to all the Christmas stocking stuffers and Target trips for years already—we had more of than 100 (which did shock me a little), and the show and tell went well. 

Although “school” is almost out for summer in most of the country, yesterday was 100 Day for all of us. We passed the 100,000 mark in mid-afternoon, more than 100,000 known deaths from COVID-19. On Sunday, as you probably know, the New York Times devoted the entire front page to the names and a significant detail about each of 1,000 people who have passed from the disease. If the NYT had printed 100 pages of name after name, that would be our count. That is how many 100,000 is. All those people, every single one of them—and their beloveds, reeling from their loss. 

As I said: big crayons, awkward hand, wet paper.