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Can’t sleep. Finished the book I was reading. Did the NYT crossword. Checked Facebook and Instagram and found no breaking news. Earlier tonight when I was lying in bed reading, Randy went into the closet and came out with a button down shirt and khakis on hangers and hung them on our linen press. This was the first time he’s done that since March. I had forgotten that his office is reopening in phases and his group is eligible to go in this week. He was actually allowed to go in on Tuesday but he was coughing a little so the app that his company instructed employees to use to monitor their health advised him to call a doctor and wait until he was free of any symptoms for three days. The cough had disappeared by Tuesday night and the doctor said if no other symptoms developed (they didn’t), he was fine.

We discussed his plan to go into the office a few weeks ago when his company announced the system and precautions they were implementing. Randy and I agreed it might be worthwhile for him to go in and check things out and if he felt it was unsafe in any way he could just come home. Theoretically this would enable me to work in our home office again and reduce the number of zoom meetings and google hangouts I have to do from our bed or in the family room or dining room with kids asking questions or the Xbox making noise. It’s been way too hot to work in the backyard tent. And perhaps being in the office would enable Randy to have his own quiet time away from the kids and the noise of me having my meetings in the next room and just break up the monotony of never leaving the house except to check the mail. And the mail is usually junk anyway.

But now I am worried about him going into the office with people I don’t know. People outside our bubble. In a building whose ventilation system may it may not be good. This afternoon and evening I participated in three consecutive online meetings. During the first one, related to one of my clients, someone announced that she had heard from someone who worked at the Pentagon that the whole country was going to shut down for two weeks except for hospitals. While I doubt this was anything but wishful thinking that our government was suddenly going to take the coronavirus seriously and do something to save lives, the idea kind of freaked me out, if only because I imagined it would spark some sort of insurrection by the people who believe wearing masks infringes on their individual liberty.

The second video call was a school board meeting during which members of the public were invited to voice their opinions about the proposed learning models for the fall. Last month the school system announced that the options would be 100% distance learning and a hybrid of distance learning and two days a week of in-person school. Parents were asked to choose a model for their children by July 20. Then Tuesday they announced that everyone would do 100% distance learning until at least October or November and then some magic formula would be used to transition to the original plan. Everyone is freaking out about all this. I get it. No one knows what will happen. People want their kids and families to be safe. People want their kids’ and their lives to go back to “normal.” But there is no normal anymore. Teachers are pleading for a plan that doesn’t require them to choose between their health and their jobs. At the meeting tonight, the vast majority of testimonies were in favor of distance learning or another community-created plan. Many of the callers were teachers. Only a few people were in favor of full-time in-person school, which is what the Trump administration would prefer, despite the continued surge in cases nationwide and mounting evidence that Covid-19 does affect kids. I was relieved, at least, that the callers were all respectful and reasoned in their statements. This was in sharp contrast to the Facebook comments during Tuesday’s briefing from the superintendent where most parents came across as self-centered and entitled, not to mention rude and disrespectful. I sure wouldn’t want the job of school administrator right now. Under the best of circumstances it is impossible to please everyone, but now when everyone is traumatized and panicked, there’s a whole new level of demands.

Friends have been asking me what I think and what we’ve chosen for our kids and I repeat my mantra that I’m trying not to get too invested in the discussion because the only things that seem clear to me are that we have no control over the global health situation right now and that whatever happens with the schools may change a million times between now and September 8. I know how lucky we are that I have a flexible job and can take care of my kids as needed. I recognize that privilege. I also wish people would calm down. There are a lot of type A parents in Arlington who need to realize their kids will not fall behind when everyone in the universe is in this same position. I wish more parents were willing to think creatively about how we can make education different or better or innovative in some way instead of trying to make it normal or squeeze it into this box that had just been upended.

The third zoom meeting was, happily, a trivia night hosted by our martial arts studio, just as a fun way to keep the community connected. We were winning after the first half but sank to fifth place by the end thanks to some tricky questions about the periodic table and the meaning of Simba’s name. (Lion) Also we didn’t trust our instincts about plasma or Aaron Burr. But we had fun. EvolveAll’s general manager, Brian, played great music (from my youth, so zoe complained it was all old) while we conferred on answers to the questions, and we laughed. It’s a relief to laugh. So many of these days are so tense. The bad news is relentless. And even a few days back from our vacation it feels like we’ve been stuck inside forever.

The other night zoe and I drove to CVS after midnight to buy bug bites remedies because she couldn’t sleep from the itching—a souvenir of our recent trip. Based on the advice of friends via Facebook, I bought Benadryl cream, calamine lotion, and another tube of something promising to alleviate pain from a variety of bites. I like to cover the bases. We wandered the aisles while we were there just in case there were other things we needed, taking advantage of the completely empty store. Cheap thrills.

It’s been four months now. I’ve stopped counting the days. I stopped blogging every day because I lost momentum. I remember back in March when I thought we’d still be able to go away for spring break, and back in April when we felt sure things would be back to normal by summer. Now the only thing I’m sure of is that we have to get used to this, even though no one wants to and it is still hard. Every other ad on my Facebook feed is for a different style or design of face mask. That’s the cool new thing to buy now.

Last night when swallowing a pill, something went awry and I spent an hour struggling to dispel the intense pain in my chest. I was crying and spitting and trying to burp. It was ridiculous and horrible. Twice before I have gone to urgent care with chest pain only to hear that it was probably indigestion. My heart, thankfully, is fine. And I’ve had the occasional panic attack as well. I think last night the tablet irritating my esophagus might also have triggered the panic, as the anxiety is always there under the surface, just waiting for an excuse to bubble up.

I should try again to sleep. I could write 1,000 more words about the other minutiae from my day but I won’t. This day has already lasted 40 hours at least. Tomorrow is Friday, but what does Friday even mean anymore? I should try again to sleep.

Perhaps the ideal place to take a vacation during a pandemic is a town whose population is 636. While it made me slightly uneasy that the nearest convenience store–Big John’s, also a gas station and place to play Virginia lottery machines–was a 10-minute drive away, spending a week far removed from the densely populated county where we live was a relief.

Water View, Virginia is located in Middlesex County, where approximately 11,000 people enjoy the luxury of 211 square miles. Compare that with Arlington County, where approximately 237,000 people are packed into 26 square miles. The day after we arrived at our Airbnb rental, Zoe and I drove to Walmart to pick up grocery items we had forgotten to bring. The trip to Walmart–the nearest grocery store–took 30 minutes. Where I live in Arlington there are more than a dozen grocery stores within five miles, not to mention drugstores and 7-11s. I will note, however, that every single person in that Walmart was wearing a mask.

What we did see on our trip instead of throngs of people were lots of cornfields. And corn. And fields with other crops that I can’t identify because I am a city girl. And small white clapboard churches. And big, beautiful houses juxtaposed with trailer homes and abandoned school buses and the splintered husks of houses and stores that have seen better days.

The house where we were fortunate to stay for a week overlooked the Rappahannock River. The house is at the end of a long paved road with dirt roads branching off in different directions. Dogs wandered around the neighborhood. One friendly beagle, who locals told us was named Mabel although her tags just identified her owner, visited us nearly every day. Randy nicknamed her the Mayor of Middlesex. Mabel came up onto the front porch and we brought her water. She tried to come in the house but we nudged her back outside. Zeke and his cousin were excited whenever she came around and went running outside to pet her and run around with her until she decided to wander off somewhere.

On the morning when Zoe woke me up at 5 to walk down to the dock to watch the sun rise, which I am still amazed she did given her proclivity for sleeping in, we heard several roosters crowing to announce the dawn and several dogs–perhaps Mabel included–barking and howling in response. Watching the sun rise over the river was glorious. And when we turned around to go back to the house, a double rainbow was visible even though we hadn’t seen a drop of rain. At night, we could see more stars than seemed possible when you’re used to living in light pollution. Simply looking out at the expanse of grass, the trees, the water, and the sky every day was such an unexpected balm.

The kids spent most of their time happily splashing in the pool. They invented names for their original dives and slid down the waterslide. The boys made up elaborate games in and out of the pool involving Harry Potter and dragons and superpowers. They read comic books that I bought for them on that trip to Walmart, and drew pictures and ate snacks. My brother-in-law cooked delicious dinners every night and spent hours picking crabs he had bought from a fisherman just down the road from our house so we could eat them fresh. We relished the opportunity to play with my baby nephew, finding new ways to make him smile and laugh and watching him explore the world and discover new skills every day. We played games after the little kids were in bed, at least whoever among us hadn’t fallen asleep while putting the little kids to bed. We made tie-dye shirts and bandanas, which was messy and fun. My brother-in-law took the boys fishing and they were unexpectedly patient and they each caught a fish! We dealt with bug bites and a bee sting and some sunscreen that melted into our eyes but we were ok. We ate popsicles and drank wine. It was good to be away from here.

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