40 Things: Coronavirus Chronicle, Part 5

By now you’ve probably read somewhere that the word “quarantine” derives from the Italian word quaranta, for forty, because forty days was the traditional length of a quarantine. Of course, we are not technically quarantined, as we go for walks, and to buy groceries, and to pick up the occasional takeout meal or garden-related item from the hardware store. But if we were quarantined and we were in Italy in the seventeenth century, today would be the last day.*

But it’s not the last day, or even close, as far as I can tell. Another forty days or more seems entirely possible. My sister was planning to get married in mid-July and she and Dave haven’t called it off yet, but that’s definitely on the table. I don’t know if North will be going to any of the three summer camps they are registered for or if I’ll see the ocean this summer. I’m not even sure if Noah will head back to Ithaca or if North will start high school in person come late August.

But to mark the fortieth day of being at home (almost all the time), here are forty things I can tell you:

  1. Now that he’s not preparing for a concert, Noah doesn’t want to play his drums. His band instructor arranged for the composer of a piece they had been working on to have an online discussion with the members of the band and I convinced him to practice the song before the discussion just to re-familiarize himself with it. I’d hoped once he started to drum, he’d want to go back down to the basement and keep noodling around, but he hasn’t. I still hope he will.
  2. I read The Plague and I am considering reading The Swiss Family Robinson, which I found in a little free library. Other topical reading suggestions?
  3. I have stopped leaving things in the fairy tree. That’s a hollow tree near the playground where people leave toys and trinkets. I’m one of the major contributors, but I’m afraid kids’ parents might not like them bringing home items they found in a public place, so I’m stashing the things North got rid of when they cleaned their room to give away later.
  4. Speaking of playgrounds, the one closest to our house is not fenced off, but a lot of playgrounds around here are. I walked through one yesterday with snow fencing or police tape around all the equipment so kids don’t climb up on it. It seemed really sad.
  5. A couple weeks ago I planted cilantro, parsley, cucumber, kale, sunflower, and zinnia seeds. Not a single one germinated, though we have some volunteer cilantro coming up in a pot in which a cilantro plant went to seed last summer. I have since replanted most of these herbs, vegetables, and flowers.
  6. Speaking of gardening, some neighbors put out a bunch of terra cotta pots on the curb to give away and I almost took them but wondered if I should be touching them. By the time I decided I could just wash my hands when I got home and leave the pots in the yard and not touch them for a few days, someone else had taken them all.
  7. North successfully trimmed Beth’s hair.
  8. North, with some help from Beth, hand sewed cloth masks for all four of us.
  9. When we dyed Easter eggs, two of them wore tiny masks, too, made from scraps of the same fabric.
  10. The kids’ preschool teacher put out a call for current students and alumni to make and photograph themselves wearing flower crowns so she could make an album for Earth Day. North made a crown and they both posed in it. I think it’s possible Lesley is one of just a handful of people in the world Noah would do this for.
  11. In other Earth Day news, I made the Enchanted Broccoli Forest (a rice-based casserole with broccoli trees standing up in it) from the cookbook of the same name for Earth Day dinner. The only problem was I misremembered when Earth Day actually was and I served it two days early. In my defense, it is really hard to keep track of what day it is these days, isn’t it?
  12. We are still watching a lot of television. This was bothering me at the beginning, but I’m just leaning into it now. Now Beth’s the one suggesting we should maybe do some other things together.
  13. And that’s why we played Cards Against Humanity on Wednesday night. We played the family-friendly version because the kids have both played the original version with friends and they agreed they did not want to play it with their parents. You can print the cards for free here. It says it’s designed for kids eight and up, but be warned if you have kids that age, it’s more scatological than I would have liked when my kids were in elementary school. Beth won and she won big, leaving the rest of us in her dust.
  14. North wanted to paint a mural on our backyard fence, so Beth offered to buy a piece of plywood we could hang on the fence for painting. North put a coat of white paint on it yesterday.
  15. North’s been baking a lot. They’ve made a couple of cakes and yesterday they made banana bread with pancake mix because we’re running short on flour. When we get some more, they are going to make sourdough bread. (A friend of ours from college sent us some dehydrated starter in the mail.)
  16. We also need to save flour for Noah’s birthday cake and mine because we’ve got a couple more quarantined birthdays coming up in the next few weeks.
  17. It’s pleasant to think about where I’d like to get takeout on my birthday, and not to decide, so I can think about it some more.
  18. I have days when, despite the fact that we’re all well, and Beth and I both have work and we haven’t lost any income, and the kids are managing their own online schooling so we can work more easily than people with small kids at home, and I know we’re lucky (relatively speaking), this still seems really hard.
  19. I also have days when it feels almost normal.
  20. Sometimes I feel sorry for Noah, losing half a semester of being at college, because it was such an intense and special part of my life and I don’t want him to miss any of it.
  21. Sometimes I feel sorry for North because chances are they won’t get to go back to school and enjoy all the end-of-middle-school events they were looking forward to.
  22. It’s strange not to have North’s friends around.
  23. But in addition to their classes, they have had Zoom meetings with Rainbow Alliance (their school’s gay-straight alliance) and the trans kids’ support group that usually meets once a month at Children’s National Medical Center. I eavesdropped a little on the Rainbow Alliance meeting, though I’m not sure it counts as eavesdropping when North chose to do it in the living room, where I work, without headphones.
  24. It’s not easy working in the living room under these circumstances, but it’s easier than I feared at the beginning.
  25. Sometimes it feels kind of cozy to all be home together, especially since Noah has a light class load this semester and when he’s not smothered in work like he was in middle and high school, we can all hang out together, watching a lot of television or playing card games that revolve around poop jokes.
  26. He’s also more available for chores than he was in high school, so I haven’t mowed the lawn or vacuumed once this spring.
  27. These last two items together makes this time feel almost like a small do-over for a lot of what we all missed during his teen years.
  28. We are still generating an astonishing amount of dishes, but the fact that the kids are both doing more around the house and yard than usual gives me time to devote to more or less constantly cleaning up the kitchen.
  29. The kids have also tackled some chores that don’t get done very often, like window washing and cleaning cobwebs out of corners.
  30. Spring is still very pretty here. We’ve moved on to the dogwood and azalea portion of it, but I’m not taking as many pictures of flowers these days. At some point, it stopped cheering me up.
  31. I still miss going out for coffee, the whole ritual of it, sitting in a public place and sipping a latte and reading a book.
  32. I miss swimming.
  33. And book club.
  34. I am writing a lot of get-out-the-vote and voter registration postcards, which helps me think positive thoughts about the future. I was really pleased when Jill Karofsky won her state Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin, both because I wrote a big batch for her campaign and because the race was so important. Yesterday I did a small batch encouraging Floridians to enroll in Vote By Mail. I would have done more, but I’m running low on both postcards and stamps.
  35. I miss those of you I used to see in person.
  36. If we’re internet friends, I’m enjoying your blog posts and feeling more connected than ever as I read them, as we are all going through different versions of the same thing.
  37. While I’m out on my morning walk, I smile at strangers more than I used to, as we skirt away from each other.
  38. I am grateful for doctors and nurses and other health care workers.
  39. And grocery store workers and mail carriers and other essential workers.
  40. I wish you all good health.

*I’m counting from the first weekday we were all home together. If I counted from the official stay-at-home directive, it would be a couple weeks later.