At some point, a couple friends and I decided to get together outdoors. We meet up with our kids in quiet playgrounds, always looking for secluded spots.
Today was a sunny and warm-ish day, so we met up after school got out on an elementary school playground.
We hadn’t seen each other for a while, and the sense of joy at being together was palpable. Chatting away, we were delighted to be doing something that felt so normal.
A Stolen Moment
One of my friends is acting as homeschooling teacher for her own kids and another pair of siblings. She is a woman of incredible energy, generous and kind in spirit.
We were just getting settled into a nice chat when suddenly, one of her charges called out to her from the top of a jungle gym.
“Ms. S! I’m stuck! I need help!”
She caught sight of him and broke off mid-sentence. A look of kindly exasperation came over her face, she gave a quick sigh and moved to step past me, towards him.
Just as she was preparing to dash over, she made the slightest move towards me with her arms open.
Without realizing what I was doing, I opened my arms to meet her, and we caught each other in a quick but warm hug, faces turned away from each other.
Time seemed to stop.
Her smell nearly overcame me. I caught a wonderful mix of scents: her laundry detergent, lotion, shampoo, maybe even perfume?
It was wonderful.
I realized in that brief embrace that I hadn’t hugged anyone but my family since February. No wonder the scent of her arrested me: I’m so used to the smell of my boys that any different smells strike me as strong.
It lasted just a split second. We broke apart, she ran off and negotiated the kiddo off the top of the jungle gym.
That Hug Said So Much
Without saying anything, I felt like we had told each other so much.
That hug spoke of loneliness, exhaustion, frustration, empathy, solidarity. It spoke of need.
It was a beautiful and spontaneous expression of a need for contact.
All Too Brief
Shortly after, a nasty fall from a different jungle gym ended our visit a bit early. Someone got a knock on the nose, and needed to go home for a little TLC.
Without any expression of resentment for shortening the visit, my friend gathered her charges and prepared to head home.
I sensed that she could have done with a longer visit, a longer natter, a good yarning session.
I wished she could stay longer too, but I silently thanked her for that illegal hug.
It was a little preview of what we have to look forward to when, some day hopefully not too far from now, the pandemic is over.
This morning my very dearest friend sent me a quick Whatsapp message.
“Hey, I’m free. Do you want to talk?”
“Do I want to talk??” I thought.
IS THE POPE CATHOLIC?!
DO BEARS DO THEIR BUSINESS IN THE WOODS?!?!
Yes. Absolutely. Yes I want to talk.
Her Spider Senses
My friend has a sixth sense for these kinds of things. She just seems to know instinctively when she’s needed.
Something must have told her that a little chat wouldn’t go amiss, and despite being in the office and having plenty of work to do, she gave me a call on her lunch break.
She’s a doctor. She’s done a residency in psychiatry. Psychology is a large part of her job. She has an idea of how different kinds of people are handling the pandemic.
She also knows me very well, and knows that I’m an incorrigible extrovert.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Hearing her voice was a breath of fresh air for me.
I’m very much a people person. If I cannot get social contact, if I cannot meet with other people, whether they be dear friends or even other parents on the playground, I wilt.
Seriously. I wilt.
I feel a hollowing out inside me, I feel a crushing loneliness, and I retreat to a gloomy place in my head.
That’s not to say that I can’t be alone. I very much enjoy my alone time. But I need it balanced with social time.
So when I got on the phone with my friend, though I had so many questions to ask her, and so much I wanted to catch up on with her, I proceeded to talk her ear off.
It was, necessarily, a quick call. My friend had to get back to work and I had to get my day started.
When we rang off, I stopped and thought, “Gah! I wanted to ask her about _____. I didn’t ask how _____ went!”
I had been so busy gabbing like a goose that I forgot to listen. It happens sometimes.
I regretted instantly how I had squandered our short call on seemingly unimportant blather. I ached to get her back on the phone and say, “Your turn!”
Sadly, it will have to wait until the next time we have a free moment.
Check On Your Extroverts
What my friend did today was a good deed.
That’s not to say that I was the only one who derived any pleasure from our talk. We enjoy chatting and listening to each other in equal measure. I know that it’s a pleasure for me to sit and listen to her when she needs it, and I have no doubt she feels the same way.
But she thought to herself, “I know an extremely extroverted person who is in social isolation right now. She probably needs a call.” And that was a Very Nice Thing.
A friend on Facebook posted this the other day:
I invite you all to do as my friend did this morning and check in on someone you think might need it.
I call my Dad daily. If I’m seriously extroverted, I get it from somewhere. That somewhere is most definitely my Dad.
He and I alternate chatting and listening, and while we can drive each other nuts, we also get a lot of joy out of our talks.
Even if you’re handling this situation just fine, and you don’t feel the need to reach out, do it.
Think of that friend, that relative you know to be struggling with the isolation. It could be an irrepressibly bubbly friend, or it could be an elderly relation who misses contact with family.
Extroverts tend to have the highest highs and the lowest lows. It happens to anyone who is slightly off an even keel.
A call from you may just be the high the extrovert in your life needs.
Things have been pretty dull around here lately. So dull that when I made hot toddies on Thursday night, it was the big event of the week.
(I made them with Celestial Seasonings brand rooibos vanilla tea, and OMG they were out of this world! Here’s the recipe I used.)
The other excitement of the week was getting our Christmas tree today!
Something Like Normal
We’re doing our best to keep things as normal as possible for the boys. They’re home all day every day and they don’t see other kids, which is not normal. But within that, we try to stick to a schedule.
I think that everyone finds some comfort in routine. It helps to normalize a very abnormal situation, such as this pandemic.
So, this morning we drove out to western Loudoun County and visited Milltown Creek Christmas Tree Farm. We got our tree there last year, and the familiarity of the place was good for the boys.
Also, the magic of it.
Even More Special This Year
This year, the comfort of the tree and the lights feels almost necessary.
Despite wearing masks the whole time, we felt normal, and certainly happy as we strolled through the rows of pines and firs trying to find the perfect tree.
(The Bear did complain of hunger a bit, but that’s all in keeping with the normal theme.)
The sun was shining, and though it was cold we were able to enjoy a complimentary cup of hot apple cider out in the sunshine before driving home.
Once home, we went through the process of taking out the box of decorations, rediscovering each ornament at a time. There’s always magic in that moment, but today it seemed even sweeter.
This will be the first Christmas in many years that we haven’t been with family. We were planning to stay put for Christmas this year anyway, but since we haven’t been able to travel at all since January, it feels wrong.
Normally, we’d have visited Spain in the summer, maybe even Switzerland, too. Staying home at Christmas would be a rest: a chance for us to relax as a family.
But after the isolated, socially distant year we’ve had, I miss family and friends more than ever. Though I swore last year I wouldn’t travel at Christmas for at least a few years, given the opportunity to do so safely, I think I’d jump on a plane tomorrow.
In Lieu of That…
We have ornaments. Gifts from family, friends. Gifts from my mother who always did her best to make the holidays magical.
And so we put up the tree today (two weeks early, in my books!), and it warms our hearts.
Looking at it makes our loved ones who are so far away feel closer.
We have withdrawn the Bear from daycare and we’re now all home together.
Everything Was Fine
Over the summer, both boys went to daycare. The Bug was in pre-K and the Bear in daycare. Once fall rolled around, the Bug started kindergarten in the public school (distance learning), and the Bear moved up to preschool.
It wasn’t always easy to get the Bear out of the house in the morning. He’s no fool! He knew his big brother was staying home!
Also, he was wary of the transition from daycare to preschool, and he missed his old classmates from the twos classroom.
As I wrote at the time, this frightened us a bit. To me, it felt like a reality check that YES THE CORONAVIRUS IS STILL AROUND, and YES WE CAN GET IT!
The school reported the case to the health department, which I was very glad about. I got a call from a contact tracer, and answered all the necessary questions about symptoms, contacts, activities, etc.
Since then, we’ve received daily texts asking us to report on the Bear’s symptoms. It’s easy to do, and so far we’ve had nothing to report.
So really, not that scary.
And yet, today, with two days left to go in our quarantine period and nary a sign of a symptom, we decided to withdraw the Bear from school.
Talking it over together, the Chico and I agreed that with the onset of the cold weather, these instances of either infection or scares are likely to increase.
Whether anyone gets Covid or not, the kids will all be getting seasonal colds, coughs and sniffles. And each time that happens, we will either have to quarantine until the symptoms pass, or we will have to get tested for Covid.
We decided that though it’s not ideal for either of the boys to be out of school, under the circumstances, we’d rather keep them home.
As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, we want to be able to spend time indoors with our friends and family. With the Bear in daycare, we wouldn’t feel as comfortable doing that.
However, if we know that our exposure has been limited, then we won’t be so worried about potentially infecting others.
Really it’s a question of controlling our environment as best we can.
Send Help (and/or Wine)
This is not going to be easy. It’s going to take a lot of willpower to keep from resorting to chocolate or wine on particularly relentless days.
The advantage we have now over lockdown in the spring is that the Bug has a schedule. Even though he’s at home, his days are structured, and that helps to set the rhythm for the rest of us.
Morning time is reading/school time (coloring, educational play, stories), we all have a lunch and break together, then afternoon nap for the Bear while the Bug has his afternoon classes.
The afternoons are all about exercise and playing. The boys “help” me with my Pilates (hilarity ensues–laughing burns calories, right?), and they do their Cosmic Kids yoga sessions.
If we can stick to a rhythm, I think we’ll make it through this.
But still, feel free to send wine. It won’t go to waste.
We got two pieces of good news today, and both involved negative results.
Do two negatives make a positive? Or is it that a double negative cancels out and makes a positive?
Whatever. All I know is that we had good news.
First Negative: No Breast Cancer Gene!
Now this is good news, in that I am relieved that I do not feel like I need to fear my own body.
However, it’s true that this is no guarantee that I will not get breast cancer. In fact, my mother was also negative for the gene indicators, and she did get breast cancer.
So while it is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, it’s still a relief.
I wrote earlier about there being an expiration date stamped on my butt. Well now, it feels like instead of an expiration date, perhaps it’s more of a sell by date.
Everyone knows you can keep stuff waaaaay after that sell by date, right?
Second Negative: No Covid!
This evening, Chico and I both got our results for the nasal swab test we had yesterday.
We are both negative for Covid! Hooray!
We are, however, still required to quarantine as the Bear was in contact with a positive case only last Friday. We’ve got about 9 more days of quarantine to go.
We’re watching him like a hawk for symptoms and we’re taking our temperatures daily.
Winter is coming. Cold and flu season is upon us. We’ve had our flu shots, (GET YOUR FLU SHOTS!) but I feel like in this, The Time of Covid, any symptom, no matter how mild, is going to make us think, “COVID!”
With that in mind, we have some hard thinking to do, and some decisions to make.
We may withdraw ourselves into our own family lockdown again. Or at least, stay all four of us at home so that we feel more comfortable expanding our bubble to our close family members.
You know: the people we’ll want to see inside when the weather really gets cold.
Over one million people have died worldwide (that we know of). Over 200,000 have died in the United States alone.
Just because we’re tired of social distancing, doesn’t mean the virus is gone. People are still getting sick with Covid-19. The coronavirus gives precisely zero craps about how fed up we are with things.
And So, We Choose Risks.
First, we carefully consider how much risk we are willing to tolerate. Do we get together with a limited group of family members?
Then, we consider the kids. Do we keep them at home? Or do we take the risk and send them to daycare and school?
We kept social distancing, but we returned the kids to daycare. They thrived. We kept up our hand washing routines, health checks. Everyone was fine.
When it came time to make the choice about distance learning vs. hybrid, we opted for distance learning, before the school board reversed its decision to offer a choice and went for only distance learning.
And Then… We Got Used to It.
Pandemic procedures became part of daily life.
The weather was good, the boys were happy. We were spending time outside, so we saw people outside, and it was easy to forget about the pandemic.
We kept wearing our masks, and the children’s teachers were always masked. It all came to seem so normal.
Yesterday, A Child Got Sick.
Yesterday evening, we got a call that a child in the Bear’s daycare class had tested positive for Covid-19.
I cannot imagine how terrifying the situation must be for the family. I’ve since learned that the child is only experiencing mild symptoms, and I pray that continues to be the case.
For me, it’s been a real wake-up call. A reminder that this is still real, and it can happen to us.
So we’re in quarantine. The Chico and I are experiencing mild cold symptoms, so we got ourselves tested for Covid-19 and should have results tomorrow.
Whether we have “the dreaded lurgy” or not, we’ve been given a stark reminder to take this seriously.
If we do have the lurgy, then we’ll see you after quarantine.
If we don’t have it, well, we’ve still got to quarantine at home.
When it is difficult to maintain the recommended 6-foot social distancing from others (such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy or walking on a busy street or in a crowded neighborhood).
If required to by law. Many areas now have mandatory masking regulations when in public.
Here’s when you don’t need to wear a mask outside:
You’re in your backyard or on personal property and it is very unlikely that you’ll end up within 6 feet of someone else.
You are in any other secluded location where the likelihood of running into someone else is very low.
You are in either of the previously mentioned environments with someone you’ve been quarantined with.
You are under two years old or have a condition where wearing a mask would inhibit your health.
You are engaging in “high intensity aerobic or anaerobic activities” or when in the water.
You are eating or drinking outdoors.
Source: Dr. Frank Elliot, “Should You Wear a Mask Outside”, https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org, updated 07/09/2020, accessed 09/19/2020, https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2020/04/20/should-you-wear-a-mask-outside/.
The Playground is Unpredictable
Unless you’re refusing to set foot on the playground and you’re sitting off to the side, far away from others, it is VERY difficult to keep six feet away from everyone else.
Kids are running all over the place, and their parents are chasing after them.
There’s no telling when suddenly, albeit briefly, you may be within inches of another person’s face.
I’m not going to risk it. I’m going to wear a mask. And by so doing, I’ll be protecting myself, those other kids and their parents, too.
This year especially, you’ll want to get a flu shot.
Assuming they get the mix right and it’s an effective vaccine this year, you want to make sure you’re protected from influenza.
The coronavirus is still out there. People are still dying of it.
It’s bad enough that we have a pandemic, we don’t want to also be dealing with a flu epidemic. If you get symptoms of fever, headache, etc., you don’t want to ask yourself whether you’re dealing with flu or coronavirus.
Eliminate the possibility that it’s the flu.
Get your flu shots.
Show How Much You Care
Do you care about your neighbors? Your family? The people in your local grocery store?
Do you care about your elderly relatives? Your small children? Your nieces and nephews?
Then WEAR A MASK.
Oh psych! You thought I was going to say get a flu shot! What the hell!
WEAR A MASK. GET YOUR FLU SHOT.
You don’t live in a bubble. Your choices (or refusal to make a choice, which in itself is a choice) have an effect on the people around you.
Don’t be that person. Don’t give grandma the flu OR the coronavirus.