Remember When “Quarantini” Seemed SO Funny?

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel as though the world shifted dramatically this week? It’s not just the decisions by federal and state governments to start loosening restrictions and opening businesses back up, though that of course contributes mightily to the shift.

In my gut, I sense the end of an era, or at least a phenomenon, that most of us shared and worried our way through together for the past two months. When those of us who could hunkered down in our bunkers in mid-March, we were scared and stunned and collectively unable to see light at the end of the tunnel.

We rallied: We made heart-shaped signs to thank our health workers. We stitched face masks, swapped tips about sources of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, baked bread — and tapped into a hitherto unrecognized desire for homemade banana bread. We joked about how much we were drinking; oh, how funny the term “quarantini” seemed, at least at first. We staged virtual and socially distant versions of graduations, weddings, baby showers, and other landmark moments. We watched and talked about Tiger King. We read and read and read. We walked and walked and walked. And we talked and talked and talked.

Then, suddenly, “quarantini” lost its charm. John Krasinski aired his eighth and final episode of Some Good News. People stopped experimenting with unusual Zoom backgrounds.

Of course, we are a long way from being done with the novel coronavirus and Covid-19; we’ll continue to see and experience suffering, sadness, and fear. The economy will pose huge challenges, and suffering will ensue there, too.

But I feel as though the past two months represent a moment in our lives that had a beginning and now is coming to an end, and while I insist on feeling optimistic and grateful and joyful, I have to admit I’m a little melancholy, too. In so many ways, our time of social isolation was a gift — for those of us who had the luxury of staying in our comfortable homes, with plenty of food, money, and ways to connect with other humans, that is. The slowing down and savoring the small things, the rekindled relationships with friends and family, the books we finally had time to read, the naps whenever we wanted to nap. These all were gifts, and I’m reluctant to give them back.

I’ve been thinking about the freak late-October blizzard that struck Connecticut in 2011. Snowmaggedon trapped my family in our living room without power, heat, running water (including the toilets), TV, or, very quickly, charged cell phones. We had to take our parrot to a friend’s house where there was heat. We boiled snow — thank goodness for our gas-fueled range and oven! — to make coffee, flush the toilet, brush our teeth. We make homemade pizza, and my husband created a beef-stew concoction from the meager offerings in the grocery store that, well, let’s just say we’ll never quite forget it. My husband also had to hustle, just before the worst of the storm, to get our daughter on a train back to college in Maryland; she found herself sitting for hours on end on the floor of a jam-packed Amtrak train, with no way to communicate with her family.

I will never forget my relief when, after about a week, the company my husband worked for allowed us to use the showers at the gym there. And the communal joy we found at Starbucks, where half the world had come to charge up; people had brought power strips so we could share the outlets.

Snowmaggedon was, on the face of it, an ordeal, and we had no idea when it would end.

But it did. Eventually, we cleaned up, rebooted, and got on with our lives. For a while, people felt deeply connected by our shared experience.

For a while. Until we put it behind us, and, eventually, pretty much forgot about the event that had, for a couple of weeks, been all-consuming.

The funny thing is, when I look back at Snowmaggedon, I can’t really remember the hardships, the stinkiness (oh, boy, did we reek!), the settling for substandard food. I remember feeling like a pioneer family, resilient, closely bound to one another, figuring out how to do the simplest tasks. And I remember all that fondly, so fondly that nearly nine years later, it still brings a pang to my heart.

And that, my friends, is how I think I’m going to feel about this now-dwindling time of staying at home. Fondly, and with gratitude.

If, that is, I’m lucky enough to live long enough to look lovingly back at the gift of slowed-down time and intense emotion that we have just shared.

For now, though, I’m about to hop in my Jeep and take part in a drive-by graduation ceremony. That’s how we roll these days — and, I suppose, how we’ll still be rolling for many months to come.


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