Day 11: Monday, March 23
I spend the morning walking around the house opening all the doors and turning on all the lights. An appraiser is coming and I am trying not to panic. It helps that he has been wonderful.
“I live with my 88 year old mother. I’m worried too. I had cold-like symptoms last week so I got tested. It came back negative.” While this causes me some comfort because at least I know he’s being safe, I also realize he could have gotten it at any point since then. He promises to wear gloves and a mask. We all agree that Eric and I will wait outside as he walks through the house. And I tell him he won’t have to touch anything because I’m turning on all the lights and opening all the doors.
“He’s here,” I announce to Eric who just set up his remote office in the parlor. He’s seated in front of the grand old mirror my great-uncle reclaimed from the dismantled Albany train station. (It looks good on teleconference, but it makes it hard for me to come into the room without being seen by colleagues or clients).
Eric and I bundle up in our coats and hats and wait on the stone patio. The snow comes down in tiny balls. It looks like styrofoam Hollywood snow. The appraiser thanks us for accommodating him. He’s wearing a mask and gloves. We thank him for his communication and for all the precautions he’s taking. He’s inside for less than 10 minutes.
Day 12: Tuesday, March 24
Today we are flying to Madrid.
Today we are pretending we are flying to Madrid.
We will spend two days there and then take the overnight train to Lisbon where we’ll stay for six.
For at least ten years we talked about taking a trip to Spain + Portugal. So to celebrate our turning 40, and to break free from the self-imposed frugality of not taking a proper vacation alone together for nearly 14 years, we decided to finally do it. And then, well, you know what happened.
“Let’s do something fun every month this year!” I declared one million years ago, back in January. How sweet. How optimistic of me. Now we will be spending the year alone, together, quarantined in our house. I do feel so very lucky.
And I do not feel sorry for myself. I will not pretend that I always did not feel sorry for myself. I, in fact, in the beginning there, several weeks/100 years ago, felt pretty sorry for myself. With all kinds of stories about how nothing ever works out for us, or we always get the rug pulled out at the last minute, or how I should never look forward to anything, or how we’ll never leave the house again. Now I’m pretty embarrassed about all of those feelings. Because, of course, as things have progressed, as we can see now, there are SO. MANY. things that are way more important than cancelled vacations which are, in fact, not important at all. We can turn 40 again next year.
Instead of flying to Madrid I spend the evening shopping for toiletries on the internet. I do not buy a bottle of acetaminophen for $600 or even for $500. I do buy one for $20. The delivery date is possibly 2021.
Day 13: Wednesday, March 25
I find myself referring to food in the refrigerator as pre-corona or post-corona. If it’s pre-corona I don’t have to wash my hands after I touch it. I have no idea if this is logical. “This cheese is post-corona,” I tell Eric. “I’m going to get rid of the packaging so we don’t have to touch it again.” He nods and doesn’t even look at me like I’m crazy.
Day 14: Thursday, March 26
Today I painted the fireplace, as one does when quarantined.
Day 15: Friday, March 27
Eric spends the better part of a half hour gchatting me bidet links even though we’re in the same house. He has wanted a bidet since we got back from Thailand 14 years ago. There was no toilet paper in the small village in Bangkok where we lived and worked. Each squatter had a shared trough of water with its own plastic bowl to cleanse yourself with (highly sanitary). If you were lucky enough to find a toilet it was equipped with a handheld bidet. The 7-11 sold individual packets of toilet paper, packaged like mini tissues that you could carry with you at all times, as I did.
When we went to New Zealand at the end of our teaching year, we stayed with a couple who owned an organic farm and apiary. They kept commenting on how little toilet paper we went through. I am trying to be mindful of that now.
Day 16: Saturday, March 28
Eric drives the car out onto the field and we load it with the pear wood from the storm last winter. Last summer we chainsawed the limb into movable pieces, but a thunderstorm blew in before we could move the wood. All we could do was stack it near the other pear trees. It’s been there for a year. It only takes us an hour to move it all to the fire pit and I realize again how much more time I spend thinking about doing things than the time it takes to actually do them.
Bob used to be the groundskeeper here when my Grandparents were alive. I think my Grandfather used to give him cash to bring trash to the dump. Instead he must have pocketed the money and dumped the trash over the side of the creek. We’ve been trying to clean it up for years -in that short spring window before everything is overgrown and overrun with ticks and prickers. We fill a contractor bag with empty bottles of oil, rusted paint cans, paint rollers, and random bits of plastic. We also fill a car load of scrap metal and pile it by the street.
I find my first two ticks of the season. One on the toilet seat after I stand up, the other on my sneaker. We tick check and double tick check and triple tick check. We throw all of our clothes directly into the washing machine.
While we’re cooking dinner we zoom with my childhood friends scattered around the region, down in the city, and in Boston, and Chicago. Someone makes a joke about Ryan chopping wood while he’s sequestered in East Hampton. He tells a story about the rich people buying up trays of lasagna and steaks. We talk about malaria medicine. How my mom needs to take it for her lupus and now there’s a run on it. My friend Dave used to take it too for his Lyme’s disease. There are so many real world consequences to the premature suggestions of our leaders. My friend Mike tells me he’ll trade us toilet paper for potatoes. We wish Kelly and Kevin luck. They’re down in the city and their 3rd child is due any day.
Day 17: Sunday, March 29
In the middle of zooming with Eric’s family I am distracted by a tow truck that pulls into our driveway. A man fills the trunk of the car that’s chained onto the tow truck with every single bit of scrap metal we piled at the side of our driveway. Eric was sure it was just going to sit there, collecting the urine of every neighborhood dog that walked by. We high-five.
Eric is cooking duck while we zoom a cocktail hour with my family.
“You’re eating duck!?” My brother-in-law asks in shock. “Isn’t that like ‘let them eat cake?'”
“We’re having macaroni and cheese for dinner,” my sister says. She just put her kids to bed.
“They probably shot the duck,” my father quips.
“We’ve had this duck in our chest freezer for a year,” Eric says and then he calls us the OG Preppers. Someone says something about OPP.
“Original Pandemic Preppers” I say. My brother-in-law requests a remake of the song.
“You down with O.P.P.?” Eric sings
“COVID-19” I sing back.
I love Naughty By Nature, but things have started to get strange.
Moments later my sister and brother-in-law are gnawing on bacon in their kitchen.
Day 18: Monday, March 30
I’m blasting “O.P.P.” from my computer set up in the dining room. I hear Eric call from his office in the parlor. I pause the music.
“Are you ok?” he calls.
“When was the last time you listened to this song?” I yell back. “It’s so good!”
Suddenly I can’t stop giggling.