Word by Word : Life in Lockdown DAY 74
(Hello friends. I know you’re tired of hearing about Covid-19, but I promise this won’t take long. Please bear with me.)
So, I have a confession to make. I have beach envy. I won’t lie, the thought of thousands of people frolicking in the surf this Memorial Day weekend, drinking mojitos at the tiki bar, and eating greasy piles of shrimp and scallops for dinner made me green with jealousy. Howev3er, I’m not so envious that I would join the crowd.
It is my belief that coming out of lockdown right now would be risky for me and my family. We could expose ourselves and others to the virus. For instance, a trip to the beach would take about four hours. During that time we would come in contact with fast-food workers and the baggers and checkers at the beach grocery store, not to mention the hotel staff. There is no realistic way to social distance at the breakfast bar or the entrance and exit to the beachside deck. There’s no way to know if the doorknobs are clean. There’s no way to know which third of the beach population is asymptomatic. Even while wearing a mask, it’s not worth it.
My family made the decision to stay in place until the end of June, that is if things are going well. North Carolina had a surge of Covid cases this week. That’s not a good sign for easing up on lockdown, especially for immunocompromised people like me. I don’t believe coronavirus is over. I think we’re going to have a second surge, maybe late in the summer.
So for now we’re staying in the pandemonium we call pandemic. We’re a little family of two kids, two grownups, three cats, and one dog sheltering in a small apartment. It’s noisy, it’s crazy, it’s madness at times, and just when we think it can’t get any worse, it does. Our stores still don’t have toilet
paper. We’re using tissues. Meat is getting hard to find. The city food pantry is running out of food. My daughter does the grocery shopping. She says men are buying beer and women are buying ice cream. Sounds right to me.
But we try to find a bright side. We’re all healthy. My other family members are healthy. We take happiness where we can find it. Mother Wren has built her nest again this year in the corner cupboard on our deck. We’re looking forward to babies. The Canada geese have come back to the retaining pond and are now showing off their four goslings.
Last week I started wearing earrings again—wide, shiny silver hoops. I get up take a shower, and put on real clothes, not sweat pants or pajamas, and earrings. If I had any makeup, I’d put that on too. But I ran out as soon as lockdown started. It’s amazing how a little bling like silver earrings can lift your spirits.
Further good news is that Mimi’s Pandemic School is almost over, and other than a huge learning curve for Thing Two and me, we managed pretty well. That’s not to say it’s been easy, as I’m sure you know. I had a complete meltdown on Day 52. My daughter followed a day later. She is an essential worker so while the money is nice – we would be in double deep doo-doo if she didn’t have her job – it puts her in a stressful situation.
Thing One, now 13 years old, meanwhile has very little sense of what is going on around her. She is hooked to the phone and to her boyfriend, their friends, and Minecraft. As long as she has food, she’s good.
Seven-year-old Thing Two, however, has reverted to some toddler behavior, despite her appearance of going with the flow. She follows her mother everywhere: To the bathroom, to the kitchen, to the grocery store (masked of course) and elsewhere. She wants mom to play with her all the time. When they play Barbies, she sits as close to mom as possible, as if to say, nothing, not even sickness can come between us.
As for me, I try to balance my outrage and deep, deep sorrow by not watching TV, not reading news stories at night before I go to bed, and reading only sources I trust. I try not to think about the people on the beach having a good time while the flags in America flew at half-mast to honor the 100,000 confirmed victims of Covid-19. Imagine a football stadium the size of the Cotton Bowl filled with good and decent Americans who are now dead. It hollows me with sadness.
We are living in the middle of an historic event of monumental proportions. It is almost too big for us to comprehend. It is the end of Life Before and the beginning of Life After. What comes next is a changed world. I try to remember to give myself a break, to find moments in tiny pleasures when I panic about not being able to work on my book. I can’t focus enough to write or read.
I feel a morbid kinship with others of my tribe who are suffering too, like writers whose brand-new book babies are languishing because tours are cancelled, bookstores are closed, and marketing is so hard to accomplish. Readings and book signings rarely bring in a lot of money, but most writers partake because they want to make contact with their readers. They’ve worked on their books for years in silence and now they can share it. They want the pleasure of seeing their audience enjoy their story. Fortunately we have electronic methods to reach people like Zoom. In fact now there are so many Zoom interviews I've got a backlog to watch. Creative people have entertained us with singing, live drawing, and live readings of children’s books. Artists have produced live-streamed drawing lessons. These amazing people have bolstered my spirits when I needed it most. But most creative people will tell you that playing to Zoom people is not the same.
I watched a live-streaming discussion among four conductors recently who expressed deep pain at not being able to perform in front of a live audience. They thrive off the electricity of a full house. They talked about how performances might take shape in the future. How do you put a full orchestra on stage while social distancing? How can you stagger seating with a live audience? Like I say, it's a changed world.
I promised I wouldn’t belabor the point but I just want to thank all of you for wearing masks to keep us all safe, and for keeping our children and grandchildren safe. Thank you for sharing your crazy memes and funny stories. Thank you teachers, doctors, nurses, CNAs, housekeeping and maintenance workers, fast food workers, pharmacy techs, women digging out their sewing machines from the attic to sew masks -- to all of you, thank you. I want to give you all a hug -- an air hug, of course.
To my writer and reader friends, all I can say is we’ll get through this. If all you can do is take a shower and watch Hallmark movies, that’s okay. If all you can do is make peanut butter sandwiches for the kids, don’t fret. They’ll survive. Wear your masks. Wash your hands. And when you go out, keep your distance. We’ll meet again soon and I promise I’ll be in a better mood.
Here are some links that are very helpful. They answer a lot of questions about masks, summer camps, school in the fall, grandparents and newborns, swimming pools, and more.