Life with a smile: Smiling through a global pandemic

Published 4:59 pm Friday, March 20, 2020


Community columnist

Optimistic good cheer is my default setting. I instinctively look for the good (or at least the humorous) in every situation, whether it’s vacation plans gone awry or a psychotic dog who escaped – again – and spent twenty minutes last Thursday enthusiastically ramming the neighbor’s chicken coop with his burly shoulders before I managed to grab him.

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So I’m going to find things to smile about, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Just know that I write these columns nearly a week before you read them, so if something big and terrible has happened that renders flippancy inappropriate, my apologies. 

But if not, can we all agree that trying to prepare for indefinite “social distancing” is a truly ridiculous undertaking? Where do you even begin? 

With toilet paper, apparently. Also, ramen noodles, rice, and pasta sauce, judging by the store aisles when I made my way there last Saturday. I was not amused. My youngest child’s birthday was on Thursday and the birthday girl wanted rigatoni with Prego marina sauce but that entire section of the store was picked clean. On the other hand, the cereal aisle was well-supplied and my children successfully lobbied to purchase “treat” cereal. 

If you’re going to be stuck home together for a month, why not start each morning with a sugar rush? What could possibly go wrong? We loaded up Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Fruit Loops and I even snuck a small single-serve container of my own guilty cereal pleasure: Lucky Charms. I’d forgotten that the milk turns grey when you eat that stuff.

I didn’t stock up on toilet paper, but we did hit the library and left laden with books because boredom seems like a far more realistic threat than lack of bathroom tissue. 

My only moment of concern came when I pulled into the parking lot of Aldi and found it closed. I felt a small frisson of alarm at the sign on the door and did a quick perimeter check for zombies. That’s what comes next, right? The hapless shopper is attacked from the side while pausing too long to read the sign. 

We returned home sans zombies – but also, sadly sans Aldi granola. 

It felt decidedly odd to look at our calendar for the week and see only emptiness. The piano lessons, doctor’s appointments, crossfit classes, musical rehearsals and other activities that populated our lives just last week were gone. My work meetings had been erased, as my office shut down and we all prepared to work from home. Parties were postponed, book club cancelled. 

More than anything else, looking at the calendar is what drove home the reality that it’s just us for the next few weeks. That’s the point of social distancing, of course, but it’s hard to wrap your head around it, given how wildly inter-connected our daily lives are. 

But we’ll manage. And we’ll laugh. We’ll probably cry, too, because that much family together time is sure to yield some massive meltdowns. But eventually we’ll also laugh about those. 

The first challenge? Figuring out how to temporarily homeschool my children. Stay tuned…