(March 16, 2020 / JNS) Let me say it right from the start: I am grappling with this thing like everybody else. Just like you, here on the East Coast of the United States, I am working at home, though as an online editor that is my reality every day. What is not is my four children (and now husband) at home with me, asking for my passwords, what’s for dinner, if they can go to the playground and which board game we’re playing after dinner (did I promise a daily round of “Clue”?)
I had lunch all figured out—a place up the street was promising a kid-sized cheese pizza and soda for free all week for elementary-school students from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. I finally had the two younger boys dressed after my videoconference, my first load of clothes in the washer and my now-at-home-from-college oldest ready to take them (of course, I had to throw in a free pizza for him) when I glimpsed the time.
It was 1:05. OK, sandwiches today.
Except for me. I made due with some ramen noodles left on the kitchen table one of the kids didn’t eat. Not a time to waste food.
It is Day One.
Of social distancing. Of schools closed. Of awkward fist gestures and elbow-bumping. Of the hoarding of toilet paper, though there seems to be plenty of tissues, napkins and paper towels on the store shelves. Never saw that kind of looting in all those zombie apocalypse movies.
But there are also the extra-friendly greetings I got while up early getting my coffee (“to go” only) from my neighborhood shop. Rarely have I heard “Good Morning,” “How are ya?” or a mutual grin-and-bear it smile during the usually hustle-and-bustle of attempting to throw one’s children onto the school bus and then jogging to said coffee shop, hoping that the line isn’t dozens-long.
Stressors also cause positivity. People do rise to the occasion; we’re all in the same boat. That salves my Jewish soul.
But again, this is Day One. Schools and work officially closed on Friday. It’s only Monday.
At 2 o’clock, my teenager is still sound asleep. He had a cough (not the virus), and last night, my husband and I were describing how parents use to alleviate the discomfort of that and other ailments in “the old days.” When a baby was cutting a tooth, when someone had a chest cold, a bit of whisky proved soothing. That’s probably been debunked by now, but it used to be common practice.
This morning, I saw an empty shot glass by the sink. He did it! That kid took some and slept 12 hours straight. And here I am, admitting this in public. But he feels better (it was the sleep, not the booze), and after all, today, on Day One, I doubt that social services is coming to take him away.
After all, there’s nowhere else to go.
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).
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