Anyone who has ever been to overnight camp can relate: It seems we’re in the midst of Color War.
You know, when the campers separate into two groups and battle it out in sports, song contests and other activities. Pie-eating contests and swim meets, a night of rope-burning (shout-out to Camp Twin Hills).
For a solid week, no more do you belong to a bunk, but to a “side.” You have your theme, wear the appropriate color, talk the talk, and walk the walk.
That’s what it seems like now.
There are two camps sheltering in place around the country (and world) right now: those at home with kids and those without.
The “without” category can be parents whose kids are grown, married or living somewhere else (and, of course, grandparents). It can include singles, young professionals and couples without kids.
Still, they are not going through this with them in the actual home. And that makes all the difference.
Fourteen days ago, I pronounced an era of home-schooling. I started with cursive and poetry, Hebrew lessons and an online tour of the art museum. The older boys took out their instruments and played to the younger ones. We watched cooking shows.
Now I’m shooting looks every time they give a geschrei. “Can’t you read out loud quietly?” “Go play with your brother.” “Is that Zoom thing over already?” “Just … do … something!”
Those attempting to shelter at home and work at home with kids at home are going bonkers.
On the other hand, those alone are getting bored, especially those not working. The walls are starting to close in. I get that; I do. It’s pretty unrealistic to think you’re going to learn a new language, write a novel, master French recipes or teach yourself how to play chess with a pandemic going on.
Yet those picking up dirty socks (more than usual), sweeping under the kitchen table (again!) and balancing laptops in bathrooms so the boss won’t hear the background noise feel a little like it’s Groundhog Day. We’re remoting in place.
It reminds me of maternity leave, cooped up for three months, trying to care for a little one and still get things done. Remember all that great advice? “Nap when the baby naps.” Right. “Tell your husband to make dinner.” Uh-huh. “Write everything down so you don’t forget.” Zzzz. And the best one: “Don’t worry about the mess! Just enjoy it.” As if.
Speaking of homes, that’s one curious aspect to all this. Suddenly, we get an inside look at the way people live. The experts, doctors, newscasters, talk-show hosts, politicians, celebrities … we get a glimpse of their basements and kitchens, home offices and living rooms, the books on their shelves and the photos they’ve framed. Who still has wood paneling, who’s redone their kitchen, who has a thousand tchotchkes, whose dog barks all the time.
And yet, we’re still trying to stay professional and maintain that sense of balance—those with kids at home and those without. Watching the running tab of email from schools and stores promising that they’ll open up again on March 31; no, April 10; sorry, May 15 … the end of June? Really!
All I can say to that is, “Don’t worry about the mess! Just enjoy it.”
Carin M. Smilk is the managing editor of JNS.
This Reporter’s Notebook will appear starting on March 16 until the end of the month (or when schools reopen).