Three weeks ago, coronavirus lambasted Italy, where my family lives. My husband’s work and my children’s schools transitioned to online platforms. The Italian government made it illegal to leave one’s home without extreme need, and a breach of this forced quarantine would result in a serious fine or even time in prison. The U.S. closed its borders to Europe; Europe has now closed itself off from other countries; not only can we not go home to the U.S., we cannot even go three miles away, across the city limits.
The first day of the official quarantine was the strangest day I have ever lived. Not a person was in sight. The environs were almost completely silent, the hush eerie and oppressive. No cars, no people, no airplanes – nothing. I felt numb and disoriented. I had no words.
As soon as I felt myself able to think more clearly, I considered how my family was going to live together for so long without being able to leave home.
We dusted off musical instruments and sheet music, pressed “play” on old home videos, revitalized hobbies, sharpened drawing pencils, and started new exercise programs. Yet each of us periodically hits the “crazy wall” and has to go take a walk or breathe some fresh air somewhere else. We are learning to let each other hit this wall at different times and in different ways, with the hope that each one of us will eventually rebound. Personally, I go through waves of disbelief, shock, fear of hospitals being over-capacity, and disorientation at the unknown which looms just ahead. And yet I am washed over with other waves too, like marveling at the breakfast table how much three of my daughters look alike, and how they all do the “just-rolled-out-of-bed” look exactly the same, and how cute my teenage daughter’s messy bun is and how her gait is just a little bit on her toes, like her dad.
The quarantine change of pace has brought out different things in each one of us: the grouchy “When-will-I-see-my-friends?” panic some of us, and the “Thank-goodness-I-don’t-have-to-deal-with-social-pressures” in others. It has brought out the musician in my husband, the “What-a-great-excuse-to-read-a-good-book” in my eighteen-year-old son, and the “Praying-warrior-who-loves-to-hug-his-mother” in my five-year-old son.
Before this pandemic, I could have told you that love is what matters most. But now, its primacy is my everything. For me that means being steady and present amid the rough edges and hot tempers, the sadness, the fear, and the worries that plague (no pun intended) each of us at different times. It is a time for me to shift from the critical, “Let-me-tell-you-how-you-should-be,” to the accepting, “I-love-you-just-the-way-you-are” kind of mother.