Just three weeks ago, I was going into the office not giving a second thought to what was around me. Two weeks ago, I was making sure to hand sanitize a little more and not touch my face. A little over a week ago, I was in New York. Today, I'm in Florida, quarantined away from my parents in their own house. It's a wild story, but far from unique.
We had to consider the uncertainty of the future in Manhattan and our safety there.
Last Friday, my parents called a family meeting with my brother and me from our shared NYC apartment. My mom announced, "I think you guys should come home." You guys included myself, my older brother, his wife, and their 2-and-a-half-year-old son. Oh, also our dog and cat. My brother was resoundingly opposed. "Absolutely not." The dangers were obvious, and not insignificant. Four potential vectors entering a new environment putting anyone we came in contact with at risk. It was exactly the sort of headline I would read and scoff, "How could people be so irresponsible?" Yet, in our 600-square-foot apartment with a toddler getting more stir crazy by the minute, we had to consider the uncertainty of the future in Manhattan and our safety there.
So, less than 24 hours later, armed with more Lysol wipes and Purell than one could imagine, we hopped on a one-way flight before the sun even rose. We took an Uber from the airport to my parents' house, threw everything into the washing machine, put on our masks, sanitized all of our luggage, and began to coordinate times to enter our shared space. My parents have essentially stayed in their room for the past eight days, only coming out once my nephew has gone to sleep, and we've completely disinfected any area we've touched. Our communication consists of speaking through doors, texting, and calling (so. many. calls.). However, there's one way we've managed to stay connected despite our obvious barriers.
These swing-side conversations are in a way an unexpected gift during this scary and generally anxious time.
I know it's difficult for my parents to have us, especially their grandson, in their home and not see us. The savior in all of this has been a window. Yes, a window. My parents have a window facing the swing on their front porch. While enjoying the fresh air and swinging leisurely, I join my mom for morning coffee. We chat about funny things we've seen online, the TV show we're currently binge watching, and all the random oddities that we so rarely get to share during our usual hustle and bustle of "regular" life. These swing-side conversations are in a way an unexpected gift during this scary and generally anxious time.
Surprisingly, it's my nephew who has taken advantage of this window the most. He's used to FaceTiming with Grandma and Grandpa, but he is loving this level up. My mom has an Amazon Alexa in her room, which he uses as a DJ to request his favorite songs (at the moment, he's into Weezer's cover of "Africa" and "Remember Me" from Coco.) He dances with her on the front porch while she rocks out in her room. He draws pictures for her on the bricks with chalk. And she gets her "StoryBots" finger puppets to put on shows for him (the only version of "live TV" he will ever know). My mom has Spanish and English flashcards that she (generally unsuccessfully) tries to get him to read and repeat. This past weekend we even did a family game night with the Heads Up app! This window has really created a bond I'm not sure we could have had without it.
All we can do is be grateful for everything we have during this time — a beautiful backyard, a stocked fridge, that little window, and each other.
We're no experts at this social-distancing or quarantine life, and in these unprecedented times we are all just doing the best we can. The next two weeks will continue to consist of washing our hands probably 30 times a day, disinfecting any surface we touch, and dreaming of the day we can walk around without masks on, but we are making an effort to make lemonade out of these sour, sour times. It's not perfect; I want to be able to hug my parents, watch American Idol with my mom, and just hang out in their home as a family, but for now this is our new normal. And all we can do is be grateful for everything we have during this time — a beautiful backyard, a stocked fridge, that little window, and each other.