“When the world was first thrown into quarantine, I think many of us had the same thought. Precautions. This won’t last forever. It’s the flu. They’ll figure it out sooner than later, I’m sure. And, as the days dragged on, our thoughts changed. Is this ever going to end? The kids are stuck inside for HOW long? Surely, they can go SOMEWHERE, right? And then at some point, we realized this was going to last, so we bought up every jigsaw puzzle, every art kit, every board game, and decided to make the best of it. As parents, I am sure we have mumbled the same phrases over and over again, ‘I hope they go to bed soon,’ ‘The last time I did math we were still carrying the one,’ ‘Sure, let’s do another TikTok video.’
The point is, lots of us are home. Our kids are home. Our spouses and significant others are home. We’re all home. Together. A lot.
And sometimes, too much togetherness can feel, well, like too much togetherness.
Before the quarantine, I saw my kids. Of course, I did. I saw the back of my daughter’s head as she jetted out the door to hang out with friends, and I saw my son in between his college classes. I saw them sometimes for dinner, mostly something we picked up or something we scarfed down standing around the counter in the kitchen, as our busy schedules almost all but destroyed sitting at the table for any length of time. Sure, we talked. Mostly about all the stuff we had to get done that day or the appointments we needed to make, but we talked nonetheless, even if it was through text and sometimes email. I mean, we tagged each other in social media posts to let each other know we were thinking about them. That counts, right?
Then suddenly, there was no more rushing. No more appointments. No more school. No more hanging out. No more nothing.
Out of nowhere, we are abruptly stuck in our homes for an unknown amount of time, and we’re all a little confused, scared, and not really sure what to do. I don’t know about you, but for the first couple of weeks, I binge-watched shows on Netflix. The kids spent a lot of time playing video games and every now they would come downstairs and pick at the jigsaw puzzle I laid out on the table.
I don’t know what happened, maybe they beat the level on the game they were playing or maybe they got bored but slowly, I started seeing them creep out of their rooms more often.
They talked to me. My daughter brushed out my hair. She did my nails. My son cooked dinner. We sat at the table. We played cards. We got that game where you have to put those things in your mouth and try to say whatever is on the cards. We put together a scavenger hunt for Easter and still made all the food, even though it was just us.
And then last week, my kids decided to help me with a project, one that they came up with. You see, before all this happened, I decided I was going to sell my house. And while the reviews were very positive on my carriage house with no real yard, the little side yard I do have was never developed and completely bland. One lone tree with some pebbles. I guess I never thought much about it, it didn’t bother me because, well, read above. We’re busy and hardly ever home.
So, when my son suggested we make some improvements to the outside to help with the sale of the house, I figured it couldn’t hurt anything, but I also knew it was going to be a lot of work, and a lot of time together.
We started one Saturday morning, with my son announcing that it was going to be a one-day project. I smiled and quietly thought that if he could move a yard of pebbles, plant some grass, and make a planter in daylight hours, then go for it. I’m perfectly happy sitting on the patio watching with a martini in hand, feet up, and soaking in the sun.
I tried to help; I really did. But considering the only shovel that was left was a snow shovel, I didn’t do much good. The kids decided that instead of supervising I should head out and run some errands, which I did for as long as I could find open stores. By the time the day was over, the yard was torn up, everything was a mess, and my one shovel was broken. The pre-quarantine me wanted to hire a landscaper to come in and finish the job, and the quarantine me decided we had plenty of time to finish it and not to stress.
And then, the most amazing thing happened. The pizza came and we all sat around the table and ate dinner together. Nobody had anywhere to go. Nobody had to rush off. We just sat there and chewed and looked at each other until my daughter broke the silence. And, guess what?
She likes working outside. She has a really interesting theory on 9/11. She really wants to go to cosmetology school. She likes olives. She spoke about her dad. The dad she lost when she was barely 13, and who she barely mumbles long sentences about because the pain is too great. But on this day – this day where the backyard was torn up, dogs were running amuck, dishes were piled in the sink, and nothing was in its place.
Yes, this day, she shared story after story in between bites of her pizza about what she remembered about him. His laugh. His good nature. His quirks, and the things he did just for her. Like the time he tried to leap on the balance beam. Or the time he lip-synched to some Hannah Montana song. Yes, on this day – in the midst of all the imperfection, it was perfect.
And, without the quarantine, who knows when that perfect day would come. Who knows when they would have decided to redo the yard. Who knows when we would have found time to lounge over dinner. Who knows when we would have nothing else to do besides share stories that make our hearts swell.
This whole virus thing has been tough on everybody. Nobody disputes that. But, after I lost my husband, I had to make a choice to see the positive in things. Otherwise, I was going to pull myself into a ball and sit in the corner of my room and cry for the next twenty years. And I was going to miss out on everything left that was good in the world. I was going to miss all the love. I was going to miss late-night dinners, movies, hugs, and walking in the rain. I was going to miss the stories but most of all, I was going to miss making memories. I was going to miss out on living. And as life went on and returned to the craziness and business of everyday things, I lost some of that resolve to stop and take everything in and appreciate it all.
So, with this quarantine, it’s brought me back to that place. That place where I remember what’s important and what isn’t. I remember now who is meant to be in my life and who isn’t. I remember now why I stopped caring what people thought of me because my time was more valuable than their drama. I remember now why it’s important to stop and breathe and reflect on the good stuff that’s come my way.
I am thankful again. I am grateful again. I am humbled again.
Because a crisis can bring you to your knees, or it can heal you. I choose to let it heal me, and I hope you do, too.
Besides, you never know how beautiful flowers are in your little yards until you don’t have them anymore. I for one, don’t ever want to take advantage of how lucky I am, ever again.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “Grief & Glitter” are available in print and on kindle. You can find more of her books here, and her podcast here. Connect with Diana on her author Facebook page, and Instagram.
Read more from Diana:
‘Both on the verge of tears one announces, ‘He smacked me.’ I check for blood, bruising. ‘She was using too much toilet paper!’: Mom shares hilarious ‘chaos’ of quarantine with multiple kids
‘Tonight, I was so tired I didn’t want to even carry my own purse. So, he did. He carried it, just like he carries so many burdens.’: 911 dispatcher says ‘sometimes, all you need is someone who will carry your purse’
‘Is this the real pin?,’ my daughter squeaked out. ‘Yes, my love, it is.’ ‘From his shirt?’ Her eyes were big and curious.’: Widow’s emotional gift for daughters honors their late father, ‘My hands trembled. It was beautiful, stunning’
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