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Life with a smile: Connecting during quarantine

By KATE SNYDER

Community columnist

If you’re wondering just how bored our family has gotten, the other night my son entertained himself for 30 minutes by batting a handful of bouncy balls around the floor of our bathroom shower stall. He narrated it like a sports commentator. “Pink zigzags hard to the right, but Red knocks her off course before flying out of bounds.” 

I believe we were officially nearing the point of naming and talking to sports equipment ala Tom Hanks in Castaway. 

Luckily, just as we all began flirting with the quarantine crazies, the restrictions started to lift a wee bit, making it more feasible to seek out human interaction. 

My daughter and her friends met for a socially-distanced picnic to celebrate the end of school, each girl on her own blanket with a packed lunch. Eventually, eating turned to cartwheels on the lawn and rolling down hills in the sunshine, in the way that children left to play outdoors all eventually channel their inner puppies. 

I was happy to see their smiles, but I think we moms enjoyed the get together just as much, taking the opportunity to catch up after several months apart. Nearly three hours passed before we reluctantly packed up and headed home. 

Even before the in-person meetups began again, I had sought out kindred spirits in the quarantine. Connection is mostly about knowing you’re not alone. 

One week, I joined a virtual reading party. Picture it: 150 people together in a Zoom, all muted, all silently reading books for two hours. It was spectacular. There was a piano player who was un-muted and his lovely music was the thread that bound us together. We were having parallel experiences, united by his melodies. It was so beautiful — this web of connectivity that spanned the globe — that it actually brought tears to my eyes.

Then there was a virtual book club meeting. I belong to an exquisite book club that has curated great books and great people for the past six years (at least). Our membership fluctuates all the time, with different people showing up to any given meeting. 

At least half a dozen of the “core” group have moved away from Danville in recent years, which makes our new virtual format delightful as well as practical. In recent meetings, we have had participants in Colorado, Texas, Virginia and Ohio. 

Finding moments to reconnect with beloved friends is perhaps the greatest silver lining to the COVID-19 crisis that I can imagine. 

For my kids, virtual connection isn’t enough. Although they have enjoyed doing video chats with friends during the shutdown, it doesn’t fulfill their need for peer interaction. Not even close. 

Their classroom Zoom meetings just stressed them out — too chaotic, too much anxiety produced by hearing what lessons others had completed or what chapter of the math book they were on. So, I stopped insisting that they participate. 

“Pick your battles” has never felt like a more important parenting mantra than in this season. 

Luckily, my kids have been able to interact with other humans in relative safety. If you have to quarantine somewhere, our neighborhood is pretty much the best spot. From socially-distanced visits from the Easter bunny last month and porch portraits by a neighborhood photographer, to bike rides with friends and an ongoing cycle of “find and hide the kindness rocks,” our neighborhood has found ways to stay connected at arm’s length. 

We’re dreaming of a neighborhood block party “when all of this is over.” An old-fashioned street party with food and games and music. 

I know it won’t be able to happen for a while. Not this summer and probably not this year. But eventually we’ll all be together again and until then, we’ll keep finding ways to stay connected.