I have been in quarantine for 327-days. In all of that time, I have craved the time to sit down and write, create, research, and take in content like nobody’s business. It seems logical, given the amount “free time” that I apparently have that a novel or feature film script should have poured out of me by now.
Instead, I have binge-watched Netflix with my family, avoided the news, soaked in the news, became a fan of Randy Rainbow, read books, wandered the desert of semi-depression, started Zoom therapy sessions with a therapist-magician that I know, became closer to my husband, got in shape, got out of shape, lost weight, gained weight, explored religion, dropped religion, found personal spirituality, dumped people, added people, voted come hell or high water, ugly cried, laughed until I’ve cried, baked bread, took up painting again, adopted a near-hopeless-case of a rescue dog, watched Hamilton countless times, joined the world in predicting who Lady Whistledown might be, made major life decisions, went back to being a redhead, canned a garden’s worth of veggies, pulled off a hat-trick of a Christmas, turned 50, lost friends and family to Covid, lost friends and family to politics, considered sanding and repainting my wheelchair, and above all….taught second grade as a private tutor to one very special child.
Throughout the pandemic I have been homeschooling my distance-learning second grader. While that sounds like a contradiction in terms, it really isn’t. The distance learning part of it is great because a curriculum is provided, homework has due dates, and there’s Zoom access to teachers. The homeschooling part of it comes in because my little guy has learning challenges that require serious hands-on guidance, that at times, takes us into early evening hours. (This is a good place for me to say that I loathe — I mean loathe — “new math.” That is all I can say about that without making my blog entry R-rated for foul language).
Beyond those learning challenges, distance learning has an equal share of pros and cons. The ‘Pros’ are for the kiddo if they have hands-on adults in their lives that take their education seriously. Unfortunately, too many kids fall into the ‘Con’ column too easily with lack of technology, lack of adult supervision or help — and in the worst-case scenario — good food and safety. Understandably, this is why the national conversation wants kids back in schools doing in-person learning. What is misunderstood is that not everyone fits the criteria to safely return, whether its the student who is at-risk, or their family members who are at risk because students are great super-spreaders of the virus.
As a Mom, I want my kiddo back into the classroom and socializing with his buddies. As a Mom with Spina Bifida and Chronic Kidney Disease, I want to live to see him graduate.
In the meantime, under the circumstances, I’m soaking in every moment I can with him, and I have found I absolutely love being his teacher and advocate. We have grown closer, if that was even possible. And our conversations are priceless. What used to be great short threads of conversation in the car-rider line, are now leisurely back and forths over lunches we make together, or during brain breaks from constant screen time.
The only hangups that have occurred are when I get overwhelmed with social isolation beyond my son and husband. My husband is an educator. So throughout this pandemic we have gotten into a weekday routine where he can decontaminate himself from being out in the public school system. We call it “De-Do-ing.” Laundry is daily, the “de-do” is daily. Even the method of getting our groceries is changed by adding the element of wiping everything down with Clorox wipes before storing, and laundering the reusable shopping bags after each use. But most noticeably felt is the disrupted family routine of shopping together.
Our “grocery store runs” as we call them, are often an event during the weekends, under normal circumstances. It includes a lot of laughing and joking through the aisles of the store, a flurry of casting votes as to where to eat lunch; there’s an inevitable Starbucks run where everyone gets their favorite concoction: my husband’s off-menu treat, my sweet cream nitro cold-brew, Little Man’s vanilla steamer. Sometimes when time allows, there’s frivolous shopping where we end up at a bookstore and get lost in the stacks and novelties for an hour. Our favorite place to wile away an afternoon was Hastings, before it closed. Other times we wind up at our favorite antique store to visit the booth of our favorite vendors. But mainly, we just make an adventure out of the simple mundane task of just getting groceries.
That hasn’t happened for a year. We haven’t slurped down a frappe, discovered treasures at a junk store, added to our book collection, or enjoyed being chow-hounds at Blue Coast Burrito for a shared Peasant Plate for nearly 365 days. And it has had an impact on all of us. It takes away our regular outings that broke up our work week, it zaps our spontaneity, it dims our vibes and family culture. I see my son getting quieter or being more shy when he gets the chance to socialize virtually. I feel myself slipping into a resignation and precarious preference for introversion, which is the opposite of who I am — what’s worse, I’m getting really good at being domestic. For my husband, he now makes those errands on his own, quickly and robotically, frequently commenting that it doesn’t feel the same as when we all head out together.
Maybe the contrast of having something we regularly do taken from us so abruptly is part of the life lesson that highlights how amazing our little family habits are to us. Maybe moving forward we’ll have an even deeper appreciation for the fact that we can take something so mundane and necessary as family errands, and make it fun.
All this to say that I hope people will accept the vaccine (pretty random and round-about, right)? I hope that my local government will start to be more efficient and logical in its distribution, big time (seriously — get it the “F” together). I hope that all I have been forced to be reflective about (which is much more than my thoughts on homeschooling, distance learning, and grocery shopping) stays with me when we begin to re-emerge into a new normal. I hope we have all learned something, and that in our learning curve, we recognize much sooner those red flags of extremism in our democracy, lack of accountability from our leaders, and the awareness of quiet, polite acceptance of the unacceptable from our neighbors.
I hope we have learned.
Because if the research is correct, there are two things we each need to consider: One is that Covid19 is here to stay. It will now be a regular vaccine for everyone, just as the Polio vaccine became part of the battery of shots in the mid-50’s. And secondly, there will be other global pandemics (particularly if we do not learn to gain global equity and accept the fact that clean water sources, safe environments, and equity in other parts of the world will reach us eventually, perhaps more powerfully than The Butterfly Effect). If we do not learn from what we’re going through right now (medically, morally, politically), we will go through it again with the risk of being even more divided or less prepared than we were this time around, facing a stronger bug than we are now. That alone should make us all take pause; something bigger and stronger than what we’re facing now means not just a year out of our lives, but maybe two or more.
I know that when enough people are vaccinated, I will probably continue to self-quarantine 30-days longer than recommended because I simply cannot and will not risk the future joy of me or my family. But when the time comes, I will truly enjoy getting back to being “us” going to our familiar haunts doing our typical things.
I look forward to once again being able to say through breathless laugher, “Remember that one time when we…”
Mask UP. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do that just might save someone that means the world to someone else…