I saw it blowing with the wind, like a ghostly child was pumping her tiny legs, making the swing fly haphazardly, back and forth. I could almost hear the chain creaking, the shrieking and yelling and laughter as phantom children played. The invisible whistle blew, the running and laughing kicked up, and recess was over. Suddenly it unknowingly became the last recess until August. Maybe.
Alynne and I were venturing at a mostly safe social distance in Missouri and Kansas when essentially all hell broke loose. At the beginning of our trip on March 12, some schools added a couple of weeks to Spring Break. Gatherings were encouraged to stay under 250 people. The NCAA tournament was cancelled, killing my hopes of watching Dok and the boys become National Champions. Hand sanitizer and toilet paper were gone from the shelves. Some minor inconveniences were encountered, but it wasn’t bad.
By Monday, the suggested number in gatherings dropped from 250 to 50. More schools were discussing extended breaks. Movie theaters, libraries, museums were starting to close. Restaurants and bars in NOLA were shut down. Bourbon Street was bare. Stores adjusted their hours to accommodate stocking issues. Beans, eggs, bread, and sugar were gone now too. Jon was already working from home. We were stocked fairly well. Just in case.
On Tuesday, while having a drink in a mostly empty establishment with my skeleton crew of teacher friends, we watched the governor declare Kansas schools were closed for the duration of the school year. My teacher friends were a bit dumbfounded and lots of text messages flew. One is the mama of a Senior. Prom, Graduation, Manhunt, etc. were all in jeopardy. What were they doing to do for classes? Tryouts? Auditions? Meeting the mandatory expectations? The bartender was a para, and he was worried. I understood. As a sub, I only get paid while I work. My district extended break for another week. This stuff was not a hoax. It was real and it was scary.
We shortened our trip by a day and discussed all sorts of things. Poor jack, our cute little neighbor boy was turning 10. His birthday party and adventures had to change. Alynne was (is??) supposed to go back for a wedding in April. I just read those things have been cancelled for 30 days. I assume it will have to be postponed. What about her surgery? The hospital called yesterday to get payment. Looks like that is still on. Is her summer job as a camp leader in jeopardy? They seem to be in a holding patterns. What about our friend’s wedding at the end of May? Jon and I planned an extensive road trip for that wedding. We were (are?) going to see the big kids and spend a couple of days in New Orleans. I don’t know what will happen now.
I am worried for friends living alone, those with underlying health issues, those with anxiety and depression. I am nervous for friends whose businesses are going to be wrecked or substantially hurt by all of this. Through no fault of their own, their livelihoods are in jeopardy. I fret over the young people whose job searches abruptly have become much harder and those who have already lost their incomes. I want to see my son.
I’m angry that people aren’t being tested as they need to be. I’m pissed off that people are being so selfish at the stores and are buying 17, 000 bottles of hand sanitizer and 200 cases of toilet paper or diapers or baby formula. My heart breaks for people in isolation away from loved ones. Sick and lonely and needing their families. I’m irritated that our health care workers don’t have what they need and have cried for help for weeks. I wish the people at the top would reassure us that yes, this sucks, but we will be ok. I wish it hadn’t turned into a political mess. People are scared and looking for comfort. I wish…
My heart smiles at stories of young people offering to make grocery runs for their neighbors, offering to share toilet paper and bread. I laughed at the story I read of the little boy telling his neighbor Jean to go inside. She is almost 70, after all. I’m encouraged that local places are still serving for carry out and delivery. Buy from those people! The impromptu neighborhood parties, with neighbors in driveways and on the curbs, give me hope. The way teachers are pulling together and helping each other out to make mobile learning less horrifying doesn’t surprise me, but it shows me how dedicated they are despite the negativity they are already facing. I joined a book club, and we are reading questionably written novels. I love it! Hope rises as I listen to the people in Italy sing with their neighbors. Or Bostonians singing “Sweet Caroline” with strangers on the streets.
I’m not going to preach or be political. Our normal distractions are gone. This is a time for us to reflect, to look at ourselves. It’s a time to learn a new hobby. Read a book. Watch a documentary or a cartoon. It is a time to write letters, and journals, and blog posts. Maybe it’s time to work on your novel. It is the time to order some really good coffee. Support local artisans and business. It is time to love people better. It is time to pray. To be grateful. To be kinder than you want to be. It is time to thank the girl at the grocery store or the boy who brings your bag curbside. It is time to be better.