Guest post by Codi Darnell
“Mommy, what are we doing tomorrow?” My son looks at me expectantly across the dinner table between bites of his spaghetti. Without fail, at least one of my three children ask me this question every single night—usually more than once. But my default answers of things such as school, soccer, a playdate or dinner at Grammy and Grandpa’s house have quickly become irrelevant as our life has been put on pause.
All that’s left on our calendar are the faint, erased lines of cancelled plans. School is shut down. Swimming lessons are cancelled, soccer is off, dance is on hiatus, and piano lessons are postponed. Unless my husband is at work—he’s an essential service worker—it is just us five. All the time. Yet the kids still ask “Mommy, what are we doing tomorrow?”
I look back at my son with a tight-lipped smile because he already knows the answer. “Nothing Buddy. We are doing nothing.” And then I remind them—and myself— that if doing nothing is the worst that comes out of this pandemic for our family, we are lucky.
My phone whistles at me and my inbox steals my attention. It’s another announcement telling us “These are unprecedented times” and “This is history in the making.” I read it and wonder why nobody can seem to find a thesaurus. I mean, I know creativity isn’t a high priority in a doom-and-gloom statement, but it couldn’t hurt. Even as I pass silent judgment on the carbon-copy announcement, I know it isn’t wrong. Every single one of us is going to remember the weeks and months unfolding around us. But, like everything, we will remember it differently. It will be our personal experiences within this pandemic that form our individual narratives of this time in history. I delete the e-mail and wonder—not for the first time—what our story will be.
By 8:00 pm all three kids are in bed. Ian is reading to our daughter as I sit one room over between our boys’ beds saying goodnight. I move to switch off the lights and hear, “Are we doing anything tomorrow?” I let out a groan and hang my head before answering. “No. We are staying home. And right now, it is a privilege to be home. It is a privilege to be bored.” I kiss them both. “I love you but it’s 8 o’clock and Mommy is done. Goodnight.”
Ian and I retreat to the couch ready to continue on our journey with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when I hear “Mommy” for what feels like the one-thousandth time today from a bedroom down the hall. I take a sip of wine, and then another, and repeat to myself “This is a privilege. This is a privilege.” I look at Ian with raised eyebrows, and he gets up to remedy whatever problem awaits him.
The computer sits open beside me, and I mindlessly scroll Facebook while I wait for him. The headline Italy coronavirus deaths surge by 627 in a day catches my eye and then a post about a local grandmother—known to be vibrant, healthy and active—currently in intensive care. “Stop scrolling!” I jump at Ian’s unexpected return. He takes the computer—and my phone—to the kitchen and we escape into Prime Video for two blissful news-free hours.
We lie down in bed just before midnight but sleep seems unlikely. The inside of my head feels like a news banner in the middle of Times Square—you can take the girl away from the headlines but you can’t take the headlines away from the girl—and I can’t help but think about another day of social distancing.
I roll towards Ian and without saying a word, he stretches his arm out, making space for me to lie on his chest. My thoughts turn to our kids and I think to myself “What are we going to do tomorrow?” I smile in amusement to myself in the dark room because a) I hate that question and b) I know exactly what another day of social distancing looks like.
I will be climbed on and touched by my kids to the outer limits of my own insanity—and I’m a snuggly person. I will listen to the three of them argue over who was playing with that car first—there are about two hundred cars to choose from—and all the other insignificant things siblings fight about, ultimately luring me to self-isolate in my bedroom with the door locked for a moment of quiet.
The piano will be played and more long-forgotten toys and crafts will be pulled out of the corners of closets with renewed purpose. There are books to be read, puzzles to be started and games to be played.
There will be cries of boredom and someone calling “Mommy” almost constantly. If the rain holds off, there will be a walk around the neighborhood and I will thank nobody in particular that we have a yard for soccer, a slab of pavement for hockey and a net for basketball. We will draw, create and dance—all to the music streaming continuously from the speakers in the kitchen. I will check my phone way too often, attempting to ignore the screen time counter—thanks for nothing, Apple—and I will allow my kids Netflix and Disney+ free of guilt because this is not the time to be a hero.
We will argue and laugh, play and eat, passing the hours of another day in constant contact with nowhere to go. Then I will send them to bed, utterly depleted of all my mothering energy, and do it all again the next day.
“Yep,” I think to myself “that pretty much sums it up.” Then I remember the headlines, and I realize that while I don’t know what our story will be at the end of this pandemic, I know what I hope for. I hope our story is this bizarre first-hand experience with social distancing—isolation amongst board games, puzzles, music, and Netflix. A story of the five of us hidden away from the unsettled world as we grate on one another’s last nerve and I make sure everyone is still brushing their teeth—and only second-hand experience with the virus itself.
Because other people will have stories vastly different. Too many people will talk about the rapid decline of their parents, partners, siblings or friends and how they weren’t able to be with them in the hospital as they slipped away. Health care providers will be haunted by the choices they had to make and the people they couldn’t save. Many of those working on the front lines will remember making the tough decision to completely isolate themselves from their own families—selflessly to keep the ones they love most, safe.
No, I won’t complain about being stuck at home.
“Mommy, are you awake? Light shines through the blinds, and my daughter is sitting next to me in bed. My eyes stay closed in an attempt to convince her to lie back down, but she pokes me and I look up at her. “Mommy, are we doing anything today?” I laugh quietly to myself and sit up next to her. “No missy. We have no plans.”
Have an opinion? A story to tell?
Something you’d like to get off your chest?