Been here, done this

By Kris Ferrazza | Mar 26, 2020

After a few days of quarantine in my house, my daughter and I have settled into a familiar routine.

It’s essentially the same life we lived when she was a newborn.

For quite a long while after she was born, I limited our contact to the outside world. We hunkered down in our cozy little cocoon and barely ventured out of the house. The reasons were many - and similar.

The world seemed dangerous. I wanted to protect her, and I had everything I needed right where I was.

Fortunately, I’m a homebody by nature. So staying inside and fussing over my nest and my child is right up my alley. Instead of watching “Sesame Street” and stacking blocks, we are binge-watching “The Office” and doing online algebra.

The frustrations I had long forgotten are starting to come back to me. The days are long and the potential to do housework is endless. While our school day is on a daily schedule, our personal hygiene is not. We look rumpled, dressed in leisure-wear with hair uncombed.

The makeup bags, contact lenses and flat irons are on hiatus. No need for mascara, jewelry or hair products. A spa treatment at this point would be a shower and mouthwash.

Yesterday we clipped our nails off short to further keep germs at bay. The idea came to me when I was washing my hands for the 10,000th time and realized it made sense.

Send home the glam squad.

After days of heightened anxiety I realized yesterday I felt less stressed. Then it hit me. I had taken off my Apple Watch. After 48 hours without it, I felt more serene. I escaped the constant barrage of bad-news notifications the watch delivers. Without minute-to-minute reports on the stock market, Tom Brady’s future and Italy’s death toll, I could breathe again.

Of course emergency preparedness has never been my forte. During the Ice Storm of 1998, I went to the store for provisions to tide us over and just stood there dumbfounded in the supermarket aisles.

In the end, I bought floating candles and Jiffy Pop popcorn to ride out the storm. I was openly mocked by family and friends for my poor choices, but my thought was how lovely it would be to float lit candles in a bowl if the power went out and then pop popcorn in the fireplace.

Practical? No. But classic me.

In the end, we never did lose power. We definitely got more fun out of the Jiffy Pop than $1.69 should buy. The floating candles still taunt me from a drawer in the sideboard.

Of course the pandemic is different. I worry constantly about my father, who is 90 and lost a lung to cancer a decade ago. I have no doubt coronavirus would be the end of him.

I’m infuriated daily by people who ignore the instructions to practice social distancing. My daughter recently received a birthday party invitation for the weekend.

I have no words.

On the one hand, my "life is good" mindset tells me I have books to read, recipes to try, and a Netflix queue that will outlive me. This too shall pass. But a few recent events made my rose-colored glasses slip.

The first came when I walked into a meeting and the chairs were spaced three feet apart. “So this is really happening,” I thought to myself. The odd sight made it real.

The second rattled my nerves. I was helping a friend and she asked me to count a huge stack of money. The request came moments after a nurse friend said cash is one of the worst things to handle during the outbreak.

I took a breath and started counting the money, but I was so distracted I kept losing count. “Come on, Kris,” I told myself. “Get it together.” Once I had the total, I washed my hands three times. Convinced that wasn’t enough, I removed my wedding rings and used hand sanitizer. I was halfway to the bank drive-through before I realized I left my diamond jewelry on a counter top. (I got it back, thankfully.)

The third and final phase of accepting what is happening has been what my father would call “the waterworks.”

Tears finally flowed when I saw the Italians singing and playing musical instruments on their balconies with flags fluttering from their windowsills. I cried for what they were enduring and what I knew was headed our way.

Another unexpected wave came as I read a letter from the principal at my daughter’s school. It started with “Well this is different, isn’t it?” which made me laugh out loud.

I read along, eagerly digesting the information about what the school is doing to support families. Then suddenly, at the end, there was a change in tone. She asked the teens to please keep in touch, noting she is checking email constantly and promises to write back. “You all mean so much to us and we need to know you’re okay,” it said.

That was all it took.

Meanwhile, I’m homeschooling my 13-year-old using work sent to her by dedicated teachers. I’m amazed they were able to rally and put out the online assignments in such a quick and efficient way. We have laptops and Wi-Fi at our house, so the transition has been fairly easy for us.

Still I find I need to keep Elizabeth on task because it only takes a notification on her cell phone or a groan from our dog to distract her.

During an especially disgruntled moment yesterday, she closed her laptop and took out her ukelele.

“Time for music class,” she announced.

I decided to choose my battles and listened as she strummed.

“You should write a song about what’s going on,” I said, trying to turn her uke-break into a lesson.

She took the bait and minutes later was ready to perform.

She played a few happy chords, then cleared her throat and sang:

“Cor-o-na-virus closed my school.

I don’t think that’s very cool.

My new teacher’s really mean.

Now I’m stuck in quar-an-tine.”

We both laughed.

“Sorry, Mom,” she said.

And the beat goes on.

Kris Ferrazza is a former reporter, assistant editor, copy editor and columnist with the Courier newspapers. She lives in Waldoboro.

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