Life is busy, y’all. With four kids I’m always at a dance class or on the soccer field, or meeting teachers, or arranging playdates. My calendar is my best friend. Every minute of every day has been meticulously planned. Even each of my births was planned because it made life easier.
And then, this pandemic happened. Sure I had heard snippets on the news, there was a terrible virus in China. But we all know people in China love their face masks, we had seen it with the SARS thing a few years ago. They were a very cautious people. We sat by and watched SARS, the Swine Flu, the Bird Flu, and Ebola come and go without much thought.
We all thought surely this would be the same.
We were wrong.
Every five minutes we received an update from the mayor, the governor, and the president about this virus. It was spreading. The west coast was effectively shut down. Then it popped up in Atlanta. That was too close to home. The schools all shut down.
Even with people beginning to get worried, Delia, Frankie Ann and I met for coffee.
“I can’t believe they’re closing schools. They wouldn’t do this in New York,” Frankie Ann moaned.
“New York is already shut down,” Delia told her.
“We had to cancel our spring trip,” I informed them. “Broadway closed. Savannah is devastated.”
“Broadway closed? This is bad, y’all,” Delia said with a gasp.
Savannah was supposed to go with her dance troupe to New York City and see shows and be tutored by some of the best dancers in the business. We had paid good money for her and I to go, and I had arranged for the other kids to spend spring break with their grandparents at the beach. Now nothing was happening.
“How much money are you out?” Frankie Ann asked me.
“Over two grand,” I said, scrunching up my nose. “They’re hoping this is just a postponement and we can go another time.”
“I can’t believe school is closed, what will I do with my kids all day?” Delia asked as she blew on her steaming coffee.
Frankie Ann lit up. She always had a plan. “I’ve been printing off worksheets and I ordered a ton of educational games for the kids to do. I can’t wait to homeschool,” she gushed.
“They just cancelled school yesterday,” I reminded her.
“And the schools will have instruction for them, you didn’t need to go through the trouble,” Delia added.
Dark eyes sparkling, Frankie Ann was in her creative element. “Oh, it was no trouble. And you know how smart Raina and the twins are, they’ll sail through their work in no time. I also signed us up for more of those subscription boxes.”
I took a bit of my blueberry muffin and savored the warmth as Frankie Ann shared all her plans. When she looked expectantly at me, I shrugged. “I’m just going to wait and do what the school tells me to do.”
That was two weeks ago. The schools passed out laptops for the older kids and work packets for the younger. Savannah and Jace were on their own to work, thank heavens. But I had to walk Caroline and Magnolia, who was brand new to schooling, through their pages of worksheets. I didn’t know how to teach, just how to get them through the work. I felt like I was setting them up for failure.
Since we couldn’t meet for coffee or breakfast anymore, the Grit Girls video chatted. Often.
“Caroline is going to fail, I just know it. I didn’t do well with fractions when I was in grade school, let alone trying to teach it to my own child,” I fussed. “And Magnolia, bless her, she just doesn’t get what I’m trying to tell her. I’m not a teacher.”
The grainy image of Delia shook as she moved her phone. “Charlotte is fine. Her work is easy as pie. Nat, on the other hand, is tougher. Some work is on the computer, some on paper. I just don’t get it.”
“It will take some time to adjust for all of us,” I reminded them as much as myself.
Frankie Ann chimed in. “The twins’ work packets are fine, easy enough. But I can’t keep Raina reigned in long enough to give the boys proper instruction. The games are not keeping her occupied.”
As if on cue, Raina’s adorable brunette curls popped into view. “Momma, who dat?”
“It’s Miss Kate and Miss Delia,” Frankie Ann told her, hoisting the toddler up for a better view.
“Good morning, Raina,” Delia cooed.
Magnolia, hearing Raina’s name, came running over, “Raina! Hi Raina!”
Under my breath I muttered, “Great, something else my kids can take over.”
“What was that?” Delia’s picture again shook as she moved about her house.
“I love my children,” I called out, louder than necessary.
“They’re so… here,” Frankie Ann said between gritted teeth as Raina leapt across her body and scampered away.
With her friend gone, Magnolia lost interest and went in search of a mid-morning snack.
“They’re eating all my food. Don’t they know there’s a pandemic and there’s no food left?” I fake cried, but the reality was, I could have cried for real.
There was no food left. Chase was mostly working from home, but also going into his office every few days, so he was elected to be our grocery shopper, and while at first there was a run on silly things like toilet paper, now there was no meat or pasta left in South Carolina. Stores were out of ramen noodles. How does a store with hundreds upon hundreds of packages of ramen run out? People had gone crazy, and we had four children to feed.
“I have scheduled eating times,” Frankie Ann announced. “No eating between designated times.”
“I’d have to put a lock on my pantry, but I’ll give that a try,” Delia said with a frown.
“Same. They just grab things and eat,” I noted. Jace walked by with a banana in hand. At least it was fruit.
“I need to get out of this house,” Frankie Ann said. “If I see one more episode of The Great Green Room I’ll go mad. I need adults to talk to.”
“Hey, we’re adults,” Delia said. She was too close to her mic and her voice came out loud but muffled.
“You know what I mean,” Frankie Ann said. “I want to socialize. I want to get out of this house.”
“Amen,” I called out. “This is not what I thought the apocalypse would look like. I pictured more Hunger Games than leggings and too many baked goods.”
“Maybe that’s what housewives in District One look like,” Delia suggested.
Frankie Ann moaned a little. “Baked goods and yoga workouts. That’s my plan.”
“What will you do when this is over?” This from Delia.
“Will this ever be over?” I asked.
“One day, we’ll come out the other side of this crazy virus,” Delia said with hope.
“I will never come home again,” I laughed.
Frankie Ann gave it some thought. She sipped her coffee and looked away from her phone before saying, “I want to rent a place in a bustling city, be out and amongst the people, and eat food somebody else has cooked.”
“That sounds like heaven,” I said, closing my eyes. I could just imagine going to Charleston or Atlanta when all this was over and being an adult again. Not a teacher or a short order cook.
“Let’s plan it,” Delia said wistfully.
Ah, that was the big question. How long would this be going on? Some states have cancelled school for the rest of the year. Experts were saying we needed to stay isolated for another month or two. Two months more of not leaving the house? Of only seeing my children and husband?
Though I love my family, Seeing nobody but them day in and day out for months was not my idea of a great way to spend my spring. Thank God for technology. Chase and I had talked about this being a strange new world. It was still our world, just vastly different than it was just two weeks ago. Two weeks ago this virus was a mild inconvenience. Now it was knocking on our front door.
We were trapped in our homes, but it wasn’t the post-world ruin Hollywood had portrayed. The world wasn’t muted colors and survival of the fittest. It was distance learning, and making bread and cookies, and watching too much on Netflix. It was chatting over phones instead of over coffee. It was finally slowing down and reading that book that’s been on the shelf or watching tutorials on how to knit a blanket. It was playing in the yard with the kids because there was no more dance or piano or soccer.
I wondered what we would do on the other side. Would we appreciate each other more? Would we not hurry back into the craziness that was our lives until it came to a screeching halt just two weeks ago?
We ended our video chat without coming up with a plan for a post-virus getaway. I think the idea of planning anything was too scary. The idea of going to a busy, crowded city even after the worst was over was too daunting. There were so many what-ifs. Too many.
Yes, one day we will come out on the other side of this pandemic, but what will the world be like then?