“Stop! You need to back up!” I yell across the yard to my son who’s straying too close to the neighbor’s kid. He’s supposed to stay 10 feet away at all times, but kids will be kids. They forget. They want to play.
I’m sitting outside on this beautiful Spring day here in Northern Alabama. I’ve been cooped up due to the rain. Though I didn’t let the rain stop me the other day when took a walk, umbrella in hand. I have to get outside sometimes.
I haven’t gotten into my van and driven anywhere in two weeks. I look over at my van and wonder if I’m going to forget how to drive.
The kids are laughing as they talk to the neighbor children. Kids are so adaptable. I don’t know about how other kids are dealing with the Coronavirus and quarantine, but my kids aren’t worried about it. We’ve talked to them about it, though maybe leaving out details. About how people who have died from Coronavirus struggled to breathe, lips turning blue, with a weight on their chest that feels like 50 pounds. I didn’t tell them about how there are so many dead bodies in Madrid, they had to start storing them in an ice skating rink. And I haven’t told them that I’m scared.
The kids play in the afternoon sun. I sit back and listen to my podcast. A neighbor walks by, walking his dog. Another one goes by, on a bike. On the surface in this peaceful neighborhood, everything is fine. But under the surface of life right now is a low hum of peril.
I felt it on Friday the 13th this month, the last time I was out and about. The last day the kids had school. There was a sense of hurry, and “take everything you can grab”.
I hate that we also have a feeling of scarcity now. It’s needless. People don’t need to hoard groceries right now but it’s contributing to the nation’s sense of panic. “If those people are hoarding, we better start hoarding…”and so the cycle continues.
We ordered groceries the other day, and they came two days later. But the poor man delivering our groceries felt guilty that he couldn’t find everything we asked for. He handed us our milk and cereal with gloved hands, muttering that it makes him not want to do his job at all. We told him it wasn’t his fault and thanked him for all he did. Grocery store workers are in the front lines right now, and I admire them. I saw something on twitter the other day that said “grocery store workers didn’t know they had signed up for the draft”. Indeed, they did not!
I carry in our groceries to the kitchen. There’s a lot of things I have to be thankful for right now. I mean first of all, we’re healthy. My kids are doing fine. My husband won’t be losing his job. We aren’t going to starve.
But I can’t be the only one that feels that hum, the feeling of something dangerous lurking. It’s in the people around you, innocent people with smiles on their faces. I can’t be the only one who feels that sense of scarcity. I used to take it for granted that I could get anything at the grocery store whenever I wanted. This is something that is silly, but for my birthday I wanted a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. But there was no chocolate frosting to be found when the man shopped for us so I settled for vanilla. It wasn’t a big deal by any means but it was just one of those reminders that things were different right now. Things are strange and we need to adapt.
But it’s so hard to adapt. This evening I got the news that schools are canceled in Alabama until the end of the year. I knew this was coming, and I believe it’s the right decision…but it really upset me more than I thought it would. Tears sprang to my eyes as it hit me….my kids had no ceremony in their last day of school. They didn’t get to say goodbye to their teachers and friends. They won’t get anyone to sign their yearbook. I was especially sad to think about my 5 year old and his pre-K class. Those are precious times, being in preschool with your friends, eating snacks and taking naps with your nap mat. Bringing your stuffed animal to school on Fridays and learning your letters and numbers.
I remembered that Friday the 13th, when I picked my son up from Pre-K. Usually I would walk him straight back to the van. But for some reason my son was very adamant that he get to play with his friends for a few moments outside in the little patch of grass. So many preschoolers were running around on the grass that afternoon after school, little social butterflies. The parents stood around watching and talking. I’m so glad I let him play with his friends that day.
After getting the news about school closing, I stood next to the stove and cried as I waited for the water to boil for pasta. Why was I so upset about this? But I wasn’t alone. A little later I got emails from the heartbroken teachers who also didn’t get to say goodbye. My sister, who teaches in Virginia where school was also closed, was very sad about the decision. Of course everyone understands why it had to be done, but we all have mixed emotions over it.
I call in my boys for dinner. In they come, with their buzz-cuts and their glasses. Their hair was getting very long, but we didn’t know when we would be able to go to Great Clips again. So last night I took some hair clippers and gave them a hair cut myself. I smile when I think about it, how they all stood around, each watching their brother get his head shaved, laughing and exclaiming how short his hair was now, and how much hair was on the bathroom floor! I put them all in the shower and the bathtub while my husband swept up the hair. The next day they proudly showed off their new hair cuts to their neighbor friends.
I guess that’s the important thing during this strange time we live in. Try to make the best of things and keep making memories. It’s not all bad. With my husband home, and my kids home, we’re getting a lot of family time. And I’m still able to call and text my family and friends. We called and texted before, but for some reason right now I seem to cherish it even more.
People are getting inventive right now. Teachers are using the Zoom app to have meetings with their students. My middle child, who is in karate, also has Zoom meetings with his instructors and watches his karate instructors’ YouTube channel. Grandparents are going on Facetime and Skype to talk to grandkids. Stories are being read over the internet and people can connect again. Pastors are streaming church services over the internet. Just last weekend I was part of a “Quarantine Netflix Movie Night”, where my friends and I watched “Blade Runner” together (on Face Time) while riffing on it. It was so nice to feel like I was with a group of friends again, watching a movie together.
There are a lot of things that we’ve realized about ourselves as a nation since Coronavirus became a threat. We’ve realized that a lot of those meetings at work could have been emails. How much we touch our face. We’ve realized how hard teachers work and how little they are paid. How much we took for granted, such as going to the movies or restaurants. But If there’s one thing I’ve been reminded of since COVID-19 became a household name, it’s that our relationships to other people are so important. When you have to social distance, because it’s a matter of life or death, people with either ignore it, or they will find a creative way to continue to nurture the relationships in their life.
That’s how we’re going to get through this time, by helping each other through it with our words and actions. We may feel helpless sitting at home, and maybe it’s making our anxiety or depression much worse. Or, we may feel overwhelming stress at having to be on the front lines. Either way, we need to continue to encourage each other and lift each other up.
If you don’t mind, I want to share this scripture verse: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17