There are so many thoughts bouncing around my head today. I’m profoundly and deeply sad, but it’s also mixed in with Easter Weekend and sunshine, shadows and the sound of birds nesting. There is a calmness that I can see and hear in this quiet slowed down city and it’s sort of beautiful.
Will the Easter Bunny wear a mask and gloves this year? Is it time that my kids know there is no Easter Bunny? What is that truth in the face of a lockdown? When mommy can’t even get a coffee? I don’t know.
Yesterday was an especially odd day for many reasons…if living in quarantine in New York City with over 700 deaths everyday from the virus is normal, it’s not.
Nothing about this situation is normal or easy. For parents with children, how do we cope living in our small apartments?
I remember when there was one case…and the man had been on the Subway…and I thought, should I stop getting on the Subway to take my daughter to ballet twice a week? Geez, she doesn’t want to go anyway, and now I feel like we are risking our lives. The answer by March 12th was a resounding – “No, don’t take the Subway.”
That same day, I reluctantly cancelled a play reading with The Worksop Theater, where I was in an intensive residency with my play “Reporter Girl.” I felt sick that morning with a scratchy throat. And I just couldn’t risk it; I didn’t want any of the actors to take the Subway to show up either. The next day, Friday the 13th was the day Broadway shut down. By Sunday, we were told by the DOE that schools would be closing. I took my last swim at my gym that weekend and I walked around our local mall for what would be the last time. The city that never sleeps was going to try to sleep.
Somehow in all of this, I’ve stayed very calm. Parents really need to stay grounded. If we freaked out, so would the kids. The first weeks of staying in my older daughter was so frightened, I was up with her all night, calming her, practicing deep breathing techniques that I guess I picked up from yoga. My kids describe me as doing a lot of yoga…really?
My family is united; there is love. We aren’t lonely. We have enough food and toilet paper. We sing out our windows at 7PM every night to thank the first responders. We even meet up with our best friends/neighbors (just a family of four who are our best friends in the city) and play a very socially distancing game of soccer every night. Sometimes they play and I go for a jog. My kids need to go outside. Their friendship, and this nightly hour has been lovely.
I took a bike ride by myself late this afternoon to the West Village and back. When I was done, I walked in the door and my family was sort of doing a zoom Sedar with some of our other family. This was my first EVER Sedar. Cool. We are zoomers, busy with virtual school. I even teach a monologue class online with my Playwriting For Kids class. Parents and teachers have jumped into the virtual classroom with two feet.
I had to get up several times during the Sedar to cook dinner. We were eating pork chops. So very wrong, I know.
I ended the day at 2AM throwing an Easter Basket together for the kids. They want to pretend, or they just want the candy. The Easter Bunny does wear a mask and gloves, I’m sure of it.
My husband and I stayed up late discussing my latest play. I wrote a new play (well, finished a play). It’s just a draft and he made me tell him every plot point without actually reading it — okay. My husband loves discussing my plays, so weird I know…
Discussing a new play feels so normal. Once a week my husband and I have these normal life discussions, and I could almost pretend life was normal, but it’s not.
I did say words of thanks over our family dinner because I’m grateful for…but if we all think there are things, new things each day, even in the darkest of times we are grateful for.
I’ve been writing down the 5 things I’m grateful for every day since 2018. I randomly heard about a free class in my neighborhood and I was struggling, so I showed up just this one time. It changed my life.
Five things. Write five new things you are grateful for everyday. I’ve done this religiously ever since that day, and it’s helped me enormously.
But sometimes I struggle to think of those five things. Lately, I’ll admit I’ve really struggled. Of course I’m grateful everyday that everyone in my family is still safe, and though many friends have contracted the virus (most without getting official test results) everyone has recovered or is in the process of recovering. One friend, who is younger than me is still in the ICU in LA. We went to grad school together. Please get well Phillip. But the growing death toll is staggering. How this has changed us? Will we ever feel normal again? What is our new normal? So much uncertainty, so many moments that I’ve just wanted to cry, but I stop myself.
As I put the kids’ clothes away, I look at their little coats with only fond memories of when we were outside all the time. Every single picture of us smiling as a family — an RV trip last summer to Tahoe, a school event where children were singing together; the school talent show that I’m so pleased at least happened on Feb 29th. Feb 29th feels like a lifetime ago, back when we were making jokes about the Corona Virus, when I couldn’t even say it correctly, I kept saying the one that sounds like the Mexican beer…
But I knew it was coming for us. Can’t tell you how I knew, but I just had a dark feeling. Of course as the Virus was first spreading — to think it started in California — and they shut down right away — New York City felt like a place that would be a direct hit for this virus — quicksand — since it can spread easily, we know little about and we are so densely populated here. “This is going to be bad,” I thought to myself.
How quickly we went from fist bumps, to staying apart, to memes and making jokes to outright panic was really a matter of days. Remember when lines at the grocery store, toilet paper shortages were shocking? Now my Face Book feed is flooded with sadness because so many people have lost someone.
Now pictures of us with friends are taken from our lap tops with us all waving. This feels unreal, like an episode of the Twilight Zone or Black Mirror, but this is indeed real life. What if something happened to us? I can’t think about it or go there. But every trip to the store, likely every time we are outside…is putting us in danger. And every time I feel utterly exhausted and suddenly need a nap (it’s happened exactly twice) I worry.
To calm myself and to find something to be grateful for, I went to my mom’s house in California in my mind. My mom is caring for my nine-year-old nephew these days. This is not how she thought she’d spend her old-age and yet, I’m so grateful my nephew is being cared for and we know where he is.
For years, we didn’t even know where he was. His mom ran away with him when he was a baby and as far as we all knew, he was somewhere in Arizona, sometimes homeless, for a year he was in foster care. At some point, about 4 years ago, we finally got some legal clarity (long story) and he was able to visit us (my brother) in California for six weeks during the summer months that coincided with my family visits. This past summer, he came for a visit and never went home. There is much I can’t say, but what I can say is this: in the case of a global pandemic, when my mind wanders to all those I care about, I’m just happy to know that my nephew is safe. My mom is okay. It’s not easy caring for a child, especially as an older person. Three meals a day, snacks, all the clean up. It’s endless, I know first hand. The whole idea of getting at least the school break is thrown out the window these days. My mom is a saint for all she does, really. She has learned the virtual technology (sort of) and is jumping in like the rest of us. She has earned her mom and grandma and good person stripes 10 times over already.
For me, I’m grateful I’m not with my kids all by myself. I’m grateful they aren’t even two years younger and are somewhat independent these days. I can sleep in a bit. I can for a better word for it ignore them sometimes. I don’t want to be on their case every minute. I’m grateful my husband is helping out more, that he understands that cleaning the kitchen actually takes an hour. I also recently started a reward system for chores that is working so far. Whatever I can do to ease the workload, I’m all in.
I’m grateful for my little Playwriting For Kids business. With a little prep I was able to create an online version of the class (we do monologue-writing).
I’m grateful that over the years (ah 20), I’ve built up quite a life in this town. I’ve gone from a very young woman on the morning of Sept 11th, who lived in the East Village on a 5th floor walk up (who was confused about life – ha ha), to a married mom of two girls who is somewhat less confused about life.
As I rode my bike to the West Village today to meet a friend (not the usual way one would meet a friend, the opposite, actually. We met with masks…with no hugs…we stood 10 feet apart and chatted for a few minutes)…I was thinking the whole ride, as the air flapped on my cheeks..yesterday, April 11th was my grandma’s birthday, Dale Messick, the creator of the Brenda Starr comic strip.
She lived in NYC, but long ago in the late 30’s and 40’s. She was a trail blazer, a “creative” — she had artsy friends that included CD Bachelor, a Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist.
I’m a creative in this town, and I run in an artsy circle.
I moved to NYC about 20 years ago (in March) and these streets around the West Village were my home for many years (I used to live on Waverly Place). They contain most of my best memories, the early ones..the Manhattan Theater Source memories, the Grad School Actors Studio Drama School MFA memories, the Waverly Place apt memories. There was a lot of hanging out at the North End bar…drinking the blood orange martinis…playing pool, loud clinks, laughs. I can hear us. I can hear you…I miss you, New York. Joe Coffee, my old “office.” And then, more recently, I guess when my first daughter was a baby, even though we had moved to Battery Park City, I used to push her in the stroller all the way to the West Village once or twice a week. I’d sit with my sleeping baby in Washington Square Park. I missed the noise of the Village. I got familiar with the walk and my new quiet life, where I’d spend 10 years re-inventing myself as a mommy. So many re-inventions.
There was so much mommy stuff, it all became a blur. But there was more West Village, it just usually involved my family. Haircuts at Doodle Doos and Morandi dinners on Sunday nights. Haircuts for me at Snip and Sip, riding our bike to our favorite park with all the toys out.
For years I participated in an Alumni Playwrights Lab at the New School, where I was able to meet more collaborators. Career things slowed, but they didn’t stop entirely, they just changed. For the most part, there was less time for the busy stuff (but I’m one of those people who finds busy stuff — it’s annoying). There was a re-invention of myself as NYC allows. I’ve changed many times in the course of my 20 years in this city.
My dear friend Isa, who I first met in grad school in 2002 (like many of you) has been alone this whole time in her apartment. I stopped worrying about her so much because she’s in school/she’s busy — in zoom classes all day and it’s not like she doesn’t have other friends. I just worry. I’m a worrier. She was looking forward to walking outside and seeing me (even if from 6 ft away) for a week, she said. Riding the bike and getting some air on my face, some time to myself, was very nice for me too.
Some of us never get a minute alone; others are alone all the time. All of it kind of it is kind of terrible; but I’m sure we are also finding a new normal, a quiet in ourselves, a calm in this downtime. Who are you in quarantine?
I’ve discovered I’m a drill sergeant when it comes to keeping my house clean. Who knew?
I needed some time away. It’s tiring being mommy chef and the enforcer of rules and schedule keeping all day, every day. The ride was so smooth. No one was out, no traffic. It was almost as if the NYC streets were closed off for a bike race and I was the only participant. A few people were out. There were singers in Washington Square Park. But really…it’s quiet outside.