Coronavirus Diaries: Week One

After four years of the worst president in the history of the United States, and two autumns in a row of choking on smokey air, and one with widespread power outages, we’ve all, (if only unconsciously) been expecting something worse.

My family and I have been sheltering in place for a full week now. My hips hurt from sitting, and my eyes often burn from Zooming/teaching online, reading articles about teaching online, e-mailing, grading papers, and all the other stuff we do online which I’ve cut back on because there’s less time.

You’ve probably noticed this too. If you’re working from home, the time just disappears. Twice today, I looked at the clock and had eight to ten minutes before a Zoom session. When I looked up again, in what felt like only three minutes, I was late or about to be late — about to be late for a meeting that I didn’t even have to leave my house to get to.

And then there’s that thing where, since you’re at home, there are so many things you could do that you can’t figure out which one you should do first, Separating the urgent work-related and urgent home-related tasks has, in just a week, become impossible. Do I defrost something for dinner or answer this e-mail since I forgot to take anything out of the freezer this morning because I was logged into a webinar about an online tutoring platform, and because If I don’t do it now, I will likely forget again (And YES, I know how lucky I am to still have a job)?

But already this week, my son, Luis, and niece (and ahijada) Jasmine, helped me clean the house. Thursday, Jasmine cooked dinner while I sewed. I also taught my son to play gin rummy, my marido hand-washed some dishes all on his own, and I resisted the urge to encourage my mom to leave the small town where she lives to come here and stay with us rather than being alone. She’s in a high-risk category, so she’s much safer where lives in Tuolumne because no cases have yet been reported. After years of turmoil during my teens and twenties, my mom and I have become rather close, twin loud-laughers, twin wine-lover, and twin sewists. The older we both get, the harder it is for us to be apart for any real length of time.

While it’s hard not knowing when we’ll sit again at my dining room table, each behind her own sewing machine, racing to see who can finish her project first, I am feeling like a lot of parents of teenagers. I can’t help being so terribly happy by much they have been at home. Both have gone out for short periods to hike outdoors with friends or skateboard, but mostly they have been home, following the shelter-in-place order, looking to be kept company and comforted too. There have been moments when they are like Laura and Mary of Little House on the Prairie on cold winter days, their willingness to cook and clean to pass the time and to make the most of our rations. And Luis plays the piano, jazz standards, Andalucia by Ernesto Lecuona, and Bach, and Jasmine endures my endless loud singing along to REM’s “It’s the End of the World,” Minutemen’s “Cornona, Zero Boys’ “Civilizations Dying,” and “Womanchrist by Bad Cop Bad Cop.”

I guess the whole house has endured my singing. They know that singing angry punk song is how I’ve coped since I was 13. It’s always helps me feel like I have some power, like we’ll all get through this. I don’t know if we will for sure, but behind the bravado of the lyric “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine,” (from REM’s punkest song) is a defiant acknowledgement of truth, a tearing away of lies, a rallying cry for the courage to face reality.

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