Originally published July 20, 2020.
I can’t believe how careless people are being about this virus. At our house, we have been taking the strictest precautions since March. We stay inside all the time and never go anywhere. When we do go somewhere, we always bring masks, except when we won’t need them.
We stayed at home all weekend. On Friday night, neither Ethan or I felt like cooking again — we’d been cooking every night since March, except for Takeout Tuesdays and Pickup Thursdays and Delivery Mondays — so we decided to go to a restaurant. It was the first time we’d gone out to dinner since March, except for last Sunday and the Friday before that, so we were excited. We piled the kids into the car with our masks and drove to a restaurant with outdoor seating. We were shocked to see that the tables were close together and that many people clearly were from different households. Most were not wearing masks, and you could practically see the spit flying between them as they talked. It really turned us off.
There was a fifteen-minute wait for an outside table, so we had to sit inside. There weren’t that many people — maybe 20, 25% not occupied — and a window was open, so it felt safe. My parents met us — we hadn’t seen them since March, except for dinner last Tuesday and the Friday before that, and at Ethan’s backyard birthday, and Janey’s drive-by birthday, and their weekly lunches in our backyard. We gave each other jokey air hugs, and Mom choked up to finally see her grandkids. We all wore our masks, except when we were eating, drinking, and talking, and we didn’t share any food, except for a few appetizers and desserts. Mom kept feeding Janey her French fries, but she always does that. It’s sort of a tradition.
When we got outside, we put our masks on and strolled down to the beach. Dozens of people in masks were enjoying the break in the heat in little clumps — it was disgusting. We turned around and left. We came back with a blanket from the car and found a spot by a family we knew from Janey and Petey’s school. We hadn’t seen them in months, except at Janey’s drive-by birthday, when they briefly got out of the car and the kids played in the family room while us parents sat six feet apart in the yard, and that time we all met up at the playground because the police tape had blown away. It was so good to finally see them!
We stayed inside the rest of the weekend, except Saturday morning, when we needed to do curbside pickup at Target. We felt giddy, piling into the car — jailbreak! We brought our masks, of course, and a Target employee loaded the trunk. We would have gone straight home, but Janey had to pee, so we put on our masks and went inside. Ethan took Petey to look at the Legos, while I stood outside the stall and whispered to Janey not to flush. She flushed anyway and said, “Oops, Mommy, I forgot!” but that can’t be helped. We got the kids hotdogs and went straight home after stopping at Old Navy and dropping Janey off at a drive-by birthday party for a couple of hours with her mask.
On Saturday night, there was a big vigil against racism in our town. While we are being very safe, it is also important to us to raise our kids to be antiracist. So we drove over to the square with our masks, but there was no street parking anywhere. The parking structures didn’t seem safe — to avoid the elevator, we’d have to walk down multiple flights of stairs, and we had Janey’s stroller. So we went home, after stopping at Chipotle and Cold Stone Creamery, because after all that nonsense with the parking and the vigil, we were starving.
It actually turned out to be a nice night. A bunch of us neighbors positioned our chairs six feet apart and blocked off the street with cars so the kids could ride bikes and play tag — an impromptu socially distanced block party. We talked about how scary the virus is and how we can’t wait for school to start so we can work from home in peace. After the kids were in bed, it started to rain, so we all got hammered in the Petersons’ basement, six feet apart. I wish more people understood how much fun you can have while socially distancing.
We stayed home all day on Sunday. In the morning, though, a local church held a drive-in service in the parking lot, so we drove over because it’s important to us to give the kids some kind of spiritual foundation. But the parking lot was almost full, and we wouldn’t have been able to see the minister. At that point, we were starving. We hadn’t had brunch in an actual restaurant since two Sundays ago. Lots of other people had the same idea, but after about an hour, we had a table inside. We hadn’t brought our masks because we hadn’t been planning to leave our car, so we kept our breathing shallow.
We literally did nothing the rest of the day. I did some gardening, and Ethan fixed the porch lights — the home improvement never ends! He had to go to Home Depot twice because he got the wrong bulbs. Luckily, everyone stays six feet apart and wears masks, so it feels very safe. On Sunday night, we stayed home, except for our niece’s drive-by graduation party. We all drove by with our cars decorated and parked and went to the backyard. My parents were there, and some of my niece’s friends and their families. There was a little jazz combo from the high school, and a taco truck in the alley. The little kids played in the basement, but everyone else stood outside, holding masks, just in case. It was a beautiful night. I said to Ethan, “Isn’t it nice to be out with people, finally?” It was the first party we’d been to during quarantine, except for the drive-by birthday parties and the other graduation parties, and his mom’s 70th birthday weekend in Milwaukee, and his Uncle Jim’s funeral.
Life is tough right now, but there are still ways to connect with other people safely. I wish more people would recognize that because then life might finally get back to normal.
Read an interview with Katherine Shonk about writing this piece over on our Patreon page.