In the last two weeks society has completely shut down.
After the schools and the businesses closed and they sent everyone home to spend time with their kids, shut up in their homes, I had a thought that perhaps in some cases this was a good thing. It stopped the ceaseless busyness, stopped commutes, after-school activities, sports, late meetings, slapdash weeknight meals and the Sisyphean routine of keeping all the obligation balls in the air.
On Friday 3/13 the two other moms in my cul de sac invited by son and I over for an end of the world party. We’d just learned that they had closed all public schools in the state, everyone was requested to stay home if they could. I brought champagne and we toasted to ‘the end of the world’. We ordered pizza and let all the children play together, the baby crawling among the older kids playing blocks on the floor. On Sunday 3/15 we hosted friends, another couple and their two kids for dinner, and all three kids played in the backyard, running around and happy. It occurred to me that this feeling of togetherness, of relying on neighbors and friends, of spending time enjoying the simple things and the company of a small circle when other distractions are unavailable, this might be a time we look back on with nostalgia someday. After all, with nobody driving the air is clearer; with factories closed, the water is cleaner, there are more stars visible at night. This might be a collective moment of pause, of healing.
That hope was dashed on Wednesday 3/19 night when one neighbor told me a person at her worked tested positive for the virus, and now she and her family are in total isolation at home. They won’t even qualify to get tested until one of them starts to show symptoms; even then there might not be enough tests for them all to get tested. The idea that we could hunker down with our closet neighbors, like people did during the London Blitz, went right out the window. Because people can have the virus and pass it on for days before they show any symptoms, or even show no symptoms at all while carrying the virus, makes this pandemic especially frightening. Anyone could have the virus right now, no one is safe, everyone is suspect. One moment of human contact could be fatal, or more likely, just touching a surface that someone else touched hours ago, could put you in mortal peril.
The Illinois governor issued a Illinois’ stay-at-home order on 3/20, halting all ‘non essential’ companies from conducting business, closing all shops except gas stations, grocery stores and banks. Millions of people are out of work, have no way to pay their bills, can’t stock up on essentials because they don’t have enough to pay rent. They closed all the college dorms, and kicked out hundreds of thousands of students who have no plan for replacement housing. I worry for the people who are barely scraping by, without much savings or anyone to turn to for help in a time like this. And what about all the people for whom their home isn’t safe, where the people your trapped at home with are actually the most toxic people in your life?
I’m fortunate that my job can be done from home, but managing a full-time job while being a full time stay at home mom is frustrating. My world has been restricted to the four walls of this house. Everything that I would do with my son is closed: the library, the children’s museum, even the playgrounds are too dangerous to remain open. Everyone who can work from home is doing so, while all the kids are stuck at home trying to learn their electronic lessons from teachers that had to put a semester’s work online with no notice. The internet bandwidth is dicey.
By comparison, Mark has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He trying to maintain crucial infrastructure while the dealing with the executive leadership with no clue how the system works. They want to keep pushing routine maintenance while he wants them to avoid all unnecessary work. He’s got so much pressure on him, from others and himself. I’m just trying to help him eat well and get enough sleep, those are the only things I can do at this point. Hopefully we’ll manage to get through this somehow.