Smiling with your eyes

Profile: Emily Birmingham ’24


Jenna Tancredi '21

Jenna Tancredi ’21 draws a girl in what is the ‘new normal’

She steps off the bus on the first day of school, brand new penny loafers on her feet, a new backpack draped over her shoulder and a mask covering her face. 


“Good morning honey, welcome to Mount,” says a warm voice. Later, she will come to know Mrs. Cilio as her physics teacher. For now, she is still a stranger.


Emily Birmingham ‘24, takes the first step into an unknown world, a stark contrast from the familiar routines of the past six months. 


She can’t run down the hallway to hug the friends she hasn’t seen since March. Instead, she can only wave at them from a predetermined safe distance.


She hears echoes of “Remember to social distance!” and, ”Stay six feet apart at all times!” reverberating within the auditorium.


Another freshman comes up to Birmingham. The girl greets her, but she is met with a blank stare. 


“Emily, you know me,” she says. “We play soccer together.”


With uniform masks and matching tired eyes, she can’t distinguish between the faces of old friends and new classmates.


“Everyone looks the same…I don’t know who anyone is,” explains Birmingham. 


She doesn’t recognize anyone, but she will learn. “The freshman class are resilient,” said Spanish teacher Patricia Eakins, “They will learn to overcome this.”


And Birmingham does.


She learns to make friends in her classes.


She learns to assign names to eye color and personalities.


She learns to recognize the voices echoing around her.


She learns to say “Hi” to her classmates in the hallways, and cherish the fleeting moments spent together between classes.


She learns to use Zoom to connect with friends and teachers.


She learns to love her time at the Mount.


She learns to smile with her eyes.