Strings Attached

A mom on Facebook posted about calling her adult daughter and asking how things were going during the Coronavirus shutdown. Her daughter rattled off a number of activities happening and mentioned having bloodwork. The rest of the conversation was lost on the mom. The first thing she asked was what the bloodwork was for.

Moms are like that. We’re concerned about how our babies are doing outside of our home nests.

Even though my twin daughters are home with me, I wonder about how this surreal time is affecting them. We have spent some evenings staying up a little later to talk through anxieties and fears. I see the end of Alabama’s Safe-At-Home order as a promising heads-up that the end of quarantining is approaching. I don’t know if I can go back. I’m truly nervous about how I’m going to respond to having to go places. Not only will it be necessary to get to places on time again, I fear there will be protocols… protocols I will overlook inadvertently. I’m going to be feeling pretty silly and awkward, trying to work out the new hygienic social etiquette rules.

end of quarantine meme

In preparation, I enlisted Pearl, my youngest (but only by one minute) and craftiest, to help me sew our first face masks. Sewing is not one of my great skills, but I’ve always imagined I would become a great seamstress. As Lady Catherine DeBourgh puts it, “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient. And so would Anne…” I have tried a number of times to get my daughter interested in sewing. I asked her on this occasion if she was willing to sit at the machine. Pearl decided she’d do best to stick with the cutting out and ironing.

“Sewing is not my thing,” she said. “There are too many strings attached.”

I grinned and laughed. She’s a witty one, I thought, and, inside, my heart turned over. As her mom, I want to prepare her for anything and everything she may meet when she gets out on her own. A few sewing skills might come in handy, but one can’t be sure of what the next generation is going to need to prepare for the future. I remember the novelty of email, how much phone money I saved at college by writing electronic messages instead of calling. Here we are, during this threat of a pandemic, communicating almost entirely online. Strangely, it isn’t that big of an adjustment. But what’s next? What does Pearl need to know?

Pressing the sewing foot down on the material, I lowered the needle. One thing I’m sure about: whether she sews or not, Pearl will always have to deal with having strings attached. Our heartstrings are attached, and this mom is grateful for every minute I get to talk, laugh, work, and enjoy this short time with her.

10 Guess-That-Movie Quotes

The shelter-in-place order ended Thursday at 5pm here in Alabama. I’m so relieved. At the same time, these weeks have been good. Yes, it’s been stressful and anxiety-inducing, but there have been some really wonderful moments. Being a family of five sheltering at home, Realm, the kids, and I are finding time for things we’ve wanted to do. The first week, we had a family powwow about a very serious matter: we needed a game night. We set it for Thursdays each week, and then we listed the games we wanted to play. Each game received popularity votes and each family member used one “veto”–forever removing one game from the list. Then my son, Magne, with his mad programming skills, created a weighted randomizer for our games. Each Thursday, he spins the virtual wheel, and we find out what we’re playing. We’ve tackled Tripoly, Clue, Bible Trivia, and Mexican Train Dominoes. This past Thursday, we played Titanic; we were ecstatic when someone finally won this one. 😶  The arguments have been fewer, the compromises greater, and the conversations kinder. When you’re sheltering in place, day after day, there’s a better sense of understanding the other person’s side of things, I think.

We’ve also been focused on staying close to extended family during this time. We’re doing a bit more calling and sending messages. My mom had to have two surgical procedures during this voluntary lock down, and she was in much discomfort before and afterward. My sister, Felicity, came up with an idea to get her through the slump. She said, “Why don’t we send lines from movies (on Marco Polo) and see if she can guess them?” She inspired us all because we did more than quote lines. We dressed up and recorded our antics. Four shelter-in-place families participated, coming up with all sorts of scenes. Burt from Mary Poppins with his terrible cockney accent started us off. Then came characters like Forest Gump, Spot Conlin (Newsies), Bob (What About Bob?), E.T., Harold Hill (Music Man), Hagrid and Harry Potter, and more than one scene from Dumb and Dumber. My sister-in-law even donned a curtain rod and curtains for a spot-on portrayal of Carol Burnett’s Scarlett O’Hara. Everybody was smiling and laughing, especially Mom.

I have a game for you now, and I invite you to try your movie skills. Here are movie lines with a Coronavirus-threat theme. See if you can figure them out. Don’t cheat; don’t look them up before you leave your guesses in the comments!

Movie #1 (hygiene ultra-awareness):

“I washed my face an’ hands afore I come, I did.”

Movie #2 (for those of us who’ve had to take mandatory “holidays” ☹️):

“But don’t you have work?”
“Work? No. Today’s gonna be a holiday.”

Movie #3 (ordering pick-up from our favorite restaurants):

“Look! Just what we ordered!”
“I’m a little scared about all of this…”
“Me too. Do you think we shouldn’t eat it?”
“I’m not that scared!”

Movie #4 (getting groceries at the store):

“Sorry I’m late; it’s a jungle out there! I had to beat an old lady with a stick to get these cranberries.”

Movie #5 (taking care of necessary errands):

“I’d like to get in, get on with it, get it over with, and get out. Get it?”
“Got it.”
“Good.”

Movie #6 (seeing celebrities post encouraging things on youtube):

“If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain’t been in vain for nothin’. Bless you all.”

Movie #7 (not seeing friends for weeks):

“I think I’m crazy.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I think so too.”

Movie #8 (essential business workers’ patience and long hours):

“Sure I may be tuckered, and I may give out, but I won’t give IN!”

Movie #9 (learning new games at home):

“You wanna bet? Bet. What do you bet?”
“I think I’ll bluff.”
“You’re gonna bluff? If you tell me you’re bluffing, then I know you’re bluffing… then I already win.”
“Why? Maybe I’m just bluffing that I’m bluffing.”

Movie #10 (trying to get Amazon to ship your order in two days):

“I can’t do that, Dave.”

And one more movie bonus for those of us who are still feeling surreal about this COVID19 world:

“Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.”

Answers will post tomorrow.

“Get off the Internet” Challenge

Last week’s short story, Disconnected, was prompted by a little experiment here at home. I promise; we were not plugging our brains into any USB ports. The challenge for our family for five days was to get off the Internet.

We rely heavily on the Internet to work and communicate, so the goal we set was to get off distracting media, like Youtube videos, tv shows, movies, and game apps. Even social media was not to be used for scrolling through posts—there had to be direct communication going on. (One concession was made: music could be listened to while work was happening.)

That first afternoon, I learned how much I rely on a screen while I’m eating. I usually eat lunch well after lunch because I get carried away with my work in the mornings. That quick bite is usually my time to catch up with Facebook and Youtube subscriptions. When I sat down to my sandwich, I felt the lack of a distraction. I was unentertained.

The withdrawal from watching shows or movies wasn’t as hard on me as it was on the kids. They were used to watching videos about cats scared by cucumbers and videos about making chewing and eating sounds to see if the listeners found it calming. They didn’t even have the videos of people commenting about the videos with the chewing sounds. Riveting, I know, but they had a hard time prying themselves away from the video-watching.

There was a great amount of unrest in the family atmosphere for those few days. I found it enlightening. Basically, because we didn’t have a device to flee to when a small conflict surfaced, the conflict became an actual annoyance. Fortunately, the conflict was then resolved sooner. No one could escape into their video-watching hidey holes to forget about it until the next confrontation.

The best thing that came out of our few days was sitting down together and talking. We played more board games and made more jokes and got in more arguments. It was great fun! And without the screens, we talked more at meal times. Interestingly, we didn’t eat at the table; we ate in the living room, where the seats are more comfortable. So, picture us in the living room not watching TV. Can you picture us? We’re sitting on the comfy, cushiony chairs, and we’re talking and eating. Novel, right? I think I understand why the Romans ate their meals reclining on couches. Seriously, has no one noticed that dining room furniture, in general, is not that inviting? Why do we make our eating room so stiff when eating is a pleasant activity and should be surrounded by all kinds of pleasing things in keeping with its… pleasantness? We also have our Bible study in the living room, so it became an easy transition from eating to reading together.

All in all, I think it was a great challenge. I stopped mulling over how I could effectively fix other people’s problems online and stopped caring how many plates I could fill on Diner Dash to move up to serving shrimp tempura. Instead, I became, naturally, more aware of doing nothing. I found myself breathing deeply and relaxing and just being. Doing nothing meant I had time to connect with me, which is so important, and which I tend to forget to do when my nose is stuck to a screen.

I hope you, too, will think about how you can spend your day being a little more connected—to yourself and to the people living right beside you. What do you like to do to keep connected?