Desperate times

By Kris Ferrazza | May 07, 2020

After six weeks cooped up at home, I know a few things for sure.

I’m lucky to be safe in my coop, only going out every 10 days or so for supplies, while loved ones work in hospitals and grocery stores.

I’m fortunate to be able to work from home and still have a job. While I teach my students from a distance, I can educate my own 13-year-old up close. She’s passing with flying colors. Not so sure about me.

So far, we’ve been blessed with good health. While the chances Elizabeth and I will get sick are low, while we stay in our bubble, my husband continues to go to work daily. As my daughter tells it, people need his plumbing and heating skills, so that makes him “an essential worker.”

Tim assures me he wears a mask while he goes about his day. He rides alone in his work van, maintains social distance from his coworkers and customers and washes his hands often.

While he continues to bring home the bacon, Elizabeth and I hold down the fort. We look after Bella, the collie dog, do schoolwork, take care of the house and sneak in an episode or two of “The Office” when we can.

After years of trying to get my daughter to watch movies from my youth, she finally agreed to see “Jaws.” I thought it would be a great escape from the reality of the pandemic. But within minutes of the great white’s first kill, the movie mayor was refusing to close the beach and denying the public was in danger. So much for our mental vacation.

Next, we moved on to “Star Wars.” Elizabeth was skeptical at first, but soon got hooked. After watching the original trilogy, she viewed the prequels and then the sequels on her own. Then came the memes, movie quotes, impressions of Chewbacca and Yoda and fan fiction. The minute she stole Rey’s hairstyle and started wielding a mini flashlight like a lightsaber, I knew what I had to do.

For weeks I avoided ordering anything by mail, out of concern for the people handling the avalanche of packages, as well as for our own safety. But I broke my boycott and ordered an official blue “Rey” saber. By the time it arrived, my little cosplayer already created her own costume out of curtains and a leather pocketbook. She was ready to use The Force and join The Rebellion.

During breaks from classwork, my daughter happily swoops in and out of rooms, saber whooshing with sound and light, as she beats the daylights out of everything in her path. It has been a joyful escape for her and will be a happy way to remember this unhappy time.

All in all, these desperate times have not been so desperate for us. In the early days of the pandemic, I fretted, paced and watched the news obsessively. At one point I was drinking way too much coffee and felt jittery. I doled out oranges, vitamin C drops and hand-washing advice to my family constantly. I was driving us all a little crazy, myself included.

Out of fear of the future I actually opened the fridge, freezer and cupboards one day and made a list of the meals I had available to us, as well as what was in the pantry. I tallied up 28 meals and breathed a sigh of relief, realizing that if the food supply ran out, we could live for at least a month. Scary moment.

It makes me wonder if I’ll start saving every scrap of tinfoil, string and pencil stub I come across, like my Depression-era ancestors, explaining, “I lived through the Pandemic of 2020.” It doesn’t help that my father, born in 1929, insists on regaling me with stories about war shortages, gas stamps and rationing during his youth.

A few weeks and grocery trips later, I eased up on those concerns and moved on to focus on my daughter’s education. She and I created a contract and both signed it. It included a daily schedule that required two hours of schoolwork each morning and another two hours each afternoon. Weekends off, of course. As an eighth-grader headed off to high school in the fall, she was willing to sign the agreement because she does not want to fall behind in her schoolwork.

Each day she keeps a journal of what she accomplished and a list of what remains to be done.

On the first day, she wrote the date and “Corona Lockdown: Day 1.” It was a bit jarring to see. She is a self-starter and doesn’t need a ton of supervision from me, thank goodness, but does ask the occasional question. Now and then I catch her staring out the window.

One day she looked up from her laptop and said, “Want to hear a fun fact?” I said sure. She said, “Warren G. Harding once lost White House china in a poker game!” I laughed. “Are you doing history homework?” I asked. She looked guilty and slowly replaced the Snapple cap on her beverage.

But it hasn’t been all meal plans and school drudgery. We have some fun. We dug out at least 40 games and decided we needed to test them all and decide which ones to keep and which to give away. So a few nights each week we gather around the table and challenge each other to “Clue,” “Blackjack,” “Uno,” “Parcheesi” and more. It’s been a lot of laughs and definitely is a break from reality.

We also taught our dog to catch cheeseballs, which is quite impressive. Elizabeth has taken to sketching people who annoy us, including the “My Pillow” guy and Dwight Schrute from “The Office.” They’re actually quite good.

We played an April Fool’s prank on my husband, as usual. Taking a cue from “The Office,” we encased his wedding band in green Jello and presented it to him for dessert.

On Easter, we hadn’t really planned to do much for my daughter, who should have outgrown egg hunts after 13 years. But with nothing but time, we decided to arrange one last hunt, styled as an “escape room.” She had to solve riddles and mysteries, follow clues and accomplish challenges to locate her Easter basket. Of course the bunny hid a few eggs too.

Most recently, my husband did a bunch of odd jobs around the house and was inspired to build a snowman in the front yard, except there was no snow. So he took the last pile of snow from a shady nook behind the barn, wheelbarrowed it out to the front, and built a little snowman next to the front door. I really started to wonder if he was losing it.

Then I heard the mailman call from his Jeep and ask, “Is that snow?”

Tim said, “Yeah, it’s the last of it. I brought it out from around back.”

The mailman grinned and gave him a thumbs up. It made me happy to think my family created a bright spot in an essential worker’s day.

So I guess we all have a role to play during these desperate times, no matter how small or ridiculous it may seem.

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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