The birthday interview commenced. First, rapid fire questions-lite. Favorite movie, favorite meal, your superpower, three people at the dinner party, etc.
"What are the three things you love most about yourself? ... What are you appreciating more, during shelter in place, that you would not have appreciated without it? ... Describe your perfect work day one year from now."
On the topic of silver linings during SIP, we all decided the PACE is actually helping. We are, in fact, more connected to loved ones, family. Reading, resting, cooking, feeling.
I shared that these shelter-in-place days have been reminiscent of my earliest memories. My great grandparents lived in a tiny town in Southern Illinois. The pristine ballpark, just a short walk through a meadow from their backyard, was the focal point of most evenings, weather permitting.
The rhythm during those visits was comforting. We arrived, we peeled potatoes (for au gratin), sat in the yard on those chairs that swayed, watched grandma garden, cooked (apple pie, later to be served a la mode WITH a slice of melted cheddar on top), feasted, visited in the breezeway. My grandfather worked at the Schlitz distillery, so there was always beer for the grown ups. My perch was the chaise lounge at the west end of the breezeway next to a sliding screen door. On the other side of the screen door was the setting sun and my grandmother's mystical rose garden, shrouded in silhouette and intoxicating ambrosias.
By day, she turned her roses into oils, mists, lotions. She dyed some of them blue. She floated the petals in water features in her garden. Helping her with these tasks was salve for my restless soul. Her fresh cut stems were ever-present on the dinner table, above her pork chops, potatoes au gratin and iceberg lettuce salads.
A century later, we have roses. And the blessed time to remember hers -- and why they were so grounding. This sacred pause -- this portal to the magic that was my slow-paced childhood -- when "come sit" was an invitation rather than an obligation. When visiting with one another, giving them your undivided attention, was a gift. Like a new bloom. When each day, opportunities were explored within and between us -- not outside of us.
If only for an hour, six women on a sand dune, feeling seen, loved, heard and connected.
*I"m aware that to write about anything other than the catastrophic loss, pain and hellscape of the coronavirus feels indulgent. privileged. But writing is one of my adaptive coping strategies. I help victims (mostly domestic violence and sexual assault) 40 hours a week. They are struggling, to say the least, during SIP. Oh, and my ex got laid off last week and is now suddenly forbidding me from stopping by to see my youngest daughter, who is almost 17.** #punishing, #pattern, #blamesomeone. Even now, almost ten years after we split, when he has a setback, he lashes out, controls what he can, which is not much -- not anymore.
** She doesn't yet have her license, thanks to the closed DMV and her older sisters aren't always up for the 25m drive between our houses ... so I often go to them, or go pick them up, after work and on the weekends. Having fewer places to "come sit," to connect, other than their dad's porch or backyard, has been a challenge, to say the least. We have room here, and they come up, sometimes sleep over. But when dad has a setback, they still feel they have to take care of him, not make alternative plans ... which is of course, not their job, as he is the adult, the parent. Yet there's an unspoken contract, an allegiance, as often happens in divorces when one parent self-identifies as the victim and alienates the children from the other parent, emotionally parentifying them in the process. Mistakes were made ... are made, and yet we are all doing our best. Forgiveness is less verb than perpetual season. For them. For me. For us.