THE COVID-IARIES, DAY 1
There are two things I do when I get stressed: I write and I clean. Right now, my bathroom is probably the cleanest it’s been in months. It’s “I scrubbed the molding” clean. It’s “I dusted behind the toilet” clean. You people right now perusing Netflix in your loungewear probably do things like “dust behind your toilets” all the time, what with all the free time you have to wear loungewear and watch movies. But those of us with kids… we’re outwardly scoffing at your offering of adorable lists of things to do while all we’re under quarantine (hang shelves! clean out closet! make a nice meal!) but secretly wishing we could be doing the same instead of fetching endless bowls of CheezIts and breaking up baby fistfights.
Both of my cars are also vacuumed and wiped down, which is oddly both the most privileged and the most prepared thing I’ve written in probably my whole life. I’m not a germaphobe; quite the opposite in fact. I’ve been known to eat questionable things off the kitchen counter. (The five second rule is more like the five day rule.) I just needed a good deep clean to stay on top of SOMEthing, to give me the illusion of control. When I was young, my mom cleaned like she was going to into battle. She put on her best rags and got down on her hands and knees and mopped and polished and inspected the carpets for tiny bits of lint. Looking back, I imagine that, as a mother of four kids, it was her way of exercising SOME authority over an otherwise circus-crazy situation. I feel like I’m caught in that same understandable trap. I’ve just vacuumed under the couch and I have convinced myself that everything is going to be alright for at least the next twelve or so hours.
I also just sucked up six cups of popcorn from the living room carpet. Mr. Burdy thought he’d treat the kids to a movie tonight (since they don’t have school on Monday) which backfired spectacularly when both kids became overtired at exactly the moment the credits rolled and they refused to brush their teeth or move to their beds unless they were guaranteed massages and cups of sparkling water. I wish I was making that last part up, but, damnit, I guess that is the second most privileged thing I have ever written.
Bobo refused to brush her own teeth, so I had two sobbing, whining kids in our tiny (but clean!) bathroom at once, each whining in a different key, and Mr. Burdy standing in the door jamb threatening to take away books if they didn’t get a move on. Not helpful. I gently slammed the door in his face. It’s not even the end of Day 1 and we’re already slamming doors.
People are talking about all the babies that are going to be born in nine months… but I think the only thing coming in nine months is divorce papers. Time inside a too small house under construction is a recipe for, well. this. What’s happening right here.
On the eve of the outbreak, three things happened at our house.
1. We got ants. Sugar ants, the small variety that come inside when the weather warms up and they hear you’re the type to leave food out for five days. The ones that are almost cute at first because they’re so industrious! And curious! And then you feel one crawling up your neck as you’re transferring boiling hot pasta into the colander and you want them all dead, just die already, burn the house down while you’re at it.
We’ve resorted to ant traps because, frankly, we just can’t keep up. We’ve been spraying cinnamon oil where our countertops meet the wall and all along the molding. It only works for a few hours and then they come back.
2. The second bathroom toilet started to overflow. I figured it would be a forty five minute snake job that would eventually pull a volleyball-sized globe of toilet paper from the pipes courtesy of my eldest daughter who thinks half a roll should do it every time she poops. No such luck. There are roots growing in our sewer line. The plumber we called, an oversized tattooed fella who looked like he might check IDs at a biker bar on the weekend, walked around the house with Mr. Burdy and mumbled things like “trench” and “re-route” and I immediately left my body and drifted off to another planet where I didn’t have to think about such things.
2) We decided to renovate the master bedroom. The entire contents of the master bedroom loom ominously tall and lumpy from underneath blue tarps in our living room, covering every spare inch minus a three foot walkway. This was all planned months ago, when we knew we’d be able to open the windows for ventilation, and Mr. Burdy’s work schedule wasn’t too heavy, and we’d finished paying off the PREVIOUS renovation. The plan was to tear out all of the walls in that bedroom and replace the fifty year old insulation and brittle wallboard so that we could actually feel warm. Indoors. Also, we wanted to tear out the carpet that hadn’t been replaced since the Carter administration. Inside the walls we found:
a) several old wasps nests
b) some rotten/termite-chewed framing
Mr. Burdy has been putting in full workdays and then donning his “dirt clothes” after the kids go to bed to repair and mud and tape and sand.
The long and short of it is we don’t have a second bathroom. Or the use of our washer/dryer. And there are ants everywhere and nowhere to go. I am ALSO potty training a toddler, which means there are a lot of tiny, pee-moistened pairs of pants regularly air dying on my shower curtain rod. Which means my house smells like a combination of old snickerdoodles and a subway platform.
I keep seeing things about how Gen Xers (*technically* the generation I am allegedly, depending on who wants to fight you that day, a part of) are the only group of people prepared for social distancing. Normally I roll my eyes at this kind of boxing in, but I’ve got to hand it this other Lauren lady. NAILED US.
Also, as if the Universe itself was like, “Hey, wanna see something cool? Check this out!” I happened to catch my neighbor outside as I was taking Beaversons for a walk, and I let him know that if he needed anything, he was more than welcome to come over, slip a note under the door, whatever. He graciously accepted my offer, then returned it, and then waved away the whole pretext, saying that the media needed “something to talk about”. And then he cited the death toll in the SARS outbreak was only 12,000. He also said something about politicians keeping themselves employed. I had a very surreal moment standing there on the other side of his literal hedgerow thinking, holy shit. This is it. I’m talking to a Boomer who thinks this whole thing will be a whole lot of hullabaloo about nothing one day. Damn.
Speaking of hullabaloo, we went to my mom’s yesterday for our annual corned beef and cabbage feast (we are not even the least bit Irish). We ate and we drank and the kids searched for a plastic pot of plastic gold coins and tchotchkes my mom hid in her yard and my eldest LOST HER MIND when the milk and the water turned green, and we all had a great time. It didn’t really sink in till I lay in bed that night: this might have been the last family gathering we’d have in a long time. I’m slated to host Easter at my house, but I’m feeling a statewide quarantine coming on and I think the Easter dresses that arrived via my online order are just going to sit in their shipping box this year. It’s strange to think of an event that far away already being cancelled.
My uncle brought a box to mom’s house containing things he’d found while looking for my mom’s naturalization papers. Inside were documents related to my grandparents’ emigration to this country more than 50 years ago, things like birth certificates and wedding certificates and letters of endorsement from my grandfather’s employer. We, my sister and mom and dad and aunt and uncle, we all held these papers and marveled at them. We wiped tears from our eyes thinking of what they’d endured as a young couple so that we could all be here, sitting around a table festooned with a cheap shamrock-themed tablecloth. We smiled, too, thinking about how funny they both were, how smart and brave and dogged.
The world around us is shuttering, one establishment at a time. Bobo’s dance classes are happening online if they are happening at all. Beav’s music classes are cancelled. Refunds will be issued. The library is closed indefinitely. Of course, school is closed for two weeks. We have ants. We can’t walk in our house because there is stuff EVERYWHERE. And we can’t wash our clothes and stuff is piling up.
I keep seeing this meme floating around, the one about how our grandparents were called to war, and all we’re being asked to do it sit on our butts. My grandparents were called, and they went. Then they made the very measured and weighty decision to leave Europe and come here once the war was over.
Surely we can get through this, right?