I’m keeping a daily journal to document our new, bizarre lifestyle. It helps me feel a little less crazy to process what’s happening in words. Here’s my entry from Monday, March 16th…
I wake up feeling terrible for the sixth day in a row. My throat is dry and my head feels like a swollen onion. It’ll get better as the day progresses, I remind myself. I don’t think it’s TheRona, just a nasty head cold that’s hard to shake. I’m avoiding getting checked out by a doctor right now for fear of being exposed to worse things.
I can hear rumbling downstairs. Travis is up with the kids already, cooking breakfast. I decide to roll over and catch a few more zzzs, when Travis sticks his head in,
“Hey what kind of medicine does Francina need?” he asks.
Our three year old has a fever. She says her throat and ears hurt, so it’s likely the same sore throat/head cold combo we’ve all had this week.
“Get the Tylenol. 5mils,” I call out before putting the pillow over my head.
I try to go back to sleep, but by now my mind is turning.
Does she have the same thing we all have? Or could it be TheRona?
She did wipe boogers all over the railing at the DCA airport a week ago and then later licked her entire hand for no good reason. I can’t take my children out in public anymore, especially Francina with her oral fixations.
Today is Monday, and the first day we are all 5 quarantined under one roof when we would otherwise have work and school and life and activities and normalcy. I drag myself out of bed and take a quick shower. Travis shows up with a cup of coffee for me. I shuffle downstairs for breakfast, and tell Travis he needs to check in with his work because my phone is blowing up.
(To add to our out-of-sortedness, Travis left his cell phone on the subway a few days ago and is still holding out hope that it’ll be found. So he’s using my WhatsApp to connect with his work group at the Pentagon).
“What time is it?” he asks.
“It’s 8:10,” I tell him.
“F#$*!!!” he calls out loudly.
“How did I lose track of time? I was supposed to check in with my staff between 7:30 and 7:45! What am I doing?” he asks himself in a tone that very well could have been, “what planet am I on?” or “I’m lost in the woods and there are pink elephants surrounding me, what is happening?”
“You cooked breakfast and let your sick wife sleep a little longer during a global pandemic, that’s all,” I remind him.
Travis checks in at work and tries to work at the kitchen table.
“Why don’t you take the desk downstairs so I can put the kids here for schoolwork?” I suggest.
We re-sort ourselves, have a second cup of coffee and awkwardly enter a new rhythm.
I have no idea what I’m doing on educating my kids from home. The kids’ school gave us a few links and print-outs, but nothing too structured for things we’ll need to be accountable for (THANK GOD, BECAUSE WE’RE BAD AT THAT).
I pull up something I saw on Facebook about chatting with your kids about what’s happening and set the kids down at the table. Using Henry’s art easel on the butcher paper side, we talk about the ‘why’ we’re staying home, and what we can and can’t do during this time. We brainstorm all the fun things we’ll do in isolation like baking yummy things, playing with Henry’s microscope, and with the metal detector we got for Christmas. For now, we’re not playing video games during the week. We’ll see how long that lasts.
I’ve seen lots of colorful rainbow charts on social media about how to divide up your time for homeschooling, but we suck at keeping schedules, so I’m strictly playing it by ear and winging it. I rip a few pages from a pre-school workbook for the girls that have letters and numbers to trace. Henry’s job is to make a book, which is his favorite thing to do anyway.
What would Kelly do? WWKD? I ask myself. Kelly is my sister-in-law who homeschools her kids and does everything with excellence.
Kelly would have classical music playing while the kids are working, I tell myself.
I cue up Pandora’s Mozart station, although I’m pretty sure it’ll end up back on the Cranberries station by the end of the day. There’s something about the Cranberries right now that feels so nostalgic, brooding and oddly comforting in our existential angst.
The music doesn’t matter because Henry’s lost in his story already, head cocked to the side, furrowed brow, in his own little world that lasts for a couple of hours. It’s a story about a guy that pops in and out of different dimensions—in the sea, in the sky, in front of a door that keeps moving around when he tries to open it. It’s a little prophetic, as it feels like we’ve all slipped into another dimension.
The girls get restless, so I send them to the basement to watch My Little Pony in French. Their preschool is a French immersion school, so French cartoons are about the best I can do to keep that up. When Henry finishes his book, I let him listen to a sleep story from my Calm app. It’s about the statues at Easter Island. We have a library book about Easter Island, so I’m going to check geography off the list for today. Afterwards, he gets to watch Captain Underpants in Spanish (his class is a Spanish immersion program).
Before lunch its time for “recess” in the yard, which is the empty lot next to us. I’m going to plant a garden in this lot this week—we don’t own it, but who even cares anymore. Desperate times, my dudes.
I fold laundry during recess while watching Cheer on Netflix. It wasn’t long before the kids find me out, all up in my chili wanting to watch it with me. We make time for extra cuddles and snuggles. I put the girls down for a nap and let Henry read during quiet time.
I begin to stress about our food supply. I ordered some more groceries from Safeway using my Instacart app, but I know at some point I need to make a Trader Joe’s run. This is what makes me feel the most vulnerable—am I going to have access to enough food when everybody is raiding the stores constantly? Will supply eventually go down when places shut down and markets plummet? I don’t have much storage place and compared to most people, I haven’t really stocked up. My people eat like horses and we’ve already gotten a hard case of the munchies with all these Costco snacks that we’re putting away. There has to be a name for the weight we might gain. The Freshman Quaran-Fifteen?
It’s time to start dinner. I switch the music back to Cranberries radio. This is the kind of dark and tender music I’m imagining isolated musicians are playing in their basements right now. Blind Melon’s No rain comes on and it takes me back to when Travis and I first started dating and they did a show at Juanita’s in Little Rock. They played song after unrecognizable song all night, holding out on their one-hit-wonder, as the crowd kept yelling, “Play No Rain!” Travis was getting antsy and wanted to leave and go to another bar. He doesn’t do well in confined, captive spaces, and here we are in the year 2020, hemmed in a zombie apocalypse kind of life and listening to Blind Melon. It’s a good thing that he sneaked back to work to get his running shoes that he left in the office. He’s going to need them.
I’m feeling good about my healthy choices tonight of fish, quinoa and roasted cauliflower, but—as expected—the kids turn their noses up at it.
I need to get out of the house, so Travis does dishes and I go for a walk. The air is cooler than I imagined it would be today. I turn a corner at the end of my street and I notice a car go by with a masked man behind the wheel. There’s another parked car on the street. The passenger side window is rolled down and a blue latex glove holding a joint hangs out of the window (weed is legal in DC). I stroll past the car and a heavy-set Latina lady flashes me a big smile. I smile back and we have a moment of head-nodding solidarity on our unusual circumstances of life. She looks at peace for the days ahead. I round the corner again and a teenage boy rips down the street in a four-wheeler. It must feel like summer break to these kids, but I’m worried about what their lives will look like without school and structure and sports, which are everything in east DC. I pass a white sign nailed to a telephone pole with black Sharpee letters that say, “Pregnant? Need Help? Call us,” next to a picture of a church with a heart drawn in the middle of it and a local phone number. I wonder how many quarantine babies will be brought into this world in the weeks to come.
I get back to my street and I’m met by my widowed neighbor Fay wheeling her trashcan to the curb. We keep our distance and catch up.
“I’m not one to believe in conspiracy theories and my son disagrees with me, but I don’t think this thing is caused by a virus,” she tells me.
“What do you think it is?” I ask her.
“I don’t know. But it can’t be a virus. I’ve never seen this in my lifetime,” she says.
I suggest she get her to get her groceries from the Instacart app, and she reminds me that grocery visits are her main outings these days. Isolation is much harder for people who live alone. I see my house and imagine all the crazy happening on the inside, but at least I’ve got people to share the crazy with. The single and widowed and elderly in real isolation have darker days ahead.
The kids and Travis and I play a game of Telestrations before its time for bedtime stories and bed. Henry and I read a chapter of Harry Potter. Francina hugs me tightly and says, “Mommy, you’re the coziest in the whole world!” and it melts away all the tension of the day. I’m lucky to be her cozy place. ‘Cozy’ is a nice way of reframing our odd lives right now. We are all a little ‘cozier’.