The COVID Kick
There are as many creative reactions to the COVID-19 restrictions as there are humans in quarantine.
They used to volunteer hundreds of hours at local nonprofit organizations. And for fun, they played mahjong, canasta or bridge, read books for their book club meetings, and met for lunch. “They” are the once-active retirees among us who suddenly have a lot of COVID-19-imposed free time to spend however they would like. So, what are they doing to keep busy and engaged while still staying 6 feet away from everyone they know?
I asked several of them and, while all are saddened, anxious, and fearful, some had wonderful stories to tell about how they are using their unexpected free time to develop new skills or resurrect old ones. If my unscientific survey is at all accurate, we can look forward to seeing many more beautifully landscaped properties, uncluttered garages, and overwalked dogs. And we can cheer on those who are reacquainting themselves with their childhood passions. People like Pam.
Pam’s story began when she was 15 and her mother bought her a piano for Christmas. It stayed in her parents’ living room for the next couple of decades, until the 1970s, when Pam and her husband, Larry, moved to Iowa and took it with them. After about four more moves, they and the piano finally settled here in St. James, but the piano remained untouched. A few years ago, Pam dusted off the keys, got the piano tuned, and tried to remember how to play it. But she didn’t have enough time — until now. By the time this COVID-19 thing is conquered, she hopes she will have regained her former piano proficiency. However, she confesses that for right now, “My husband’s ears have to hurt, and sometimes even the dogs show up at my piano bench and look up at me like, ‘enough already’. I don’t think I will ever reach the level where I left off (more than 50 years ago) but it is a very enjoyable pastime for me now.”
Lydia can relate to that. She, too, has taken up the piano once again after not playing for “a long, long time.” She says, “It is fun to try to get my fingers and my brain working together again.” Unlike Pam, she won’t play in front of an audience (neither a husband nor a dog) so she only plays when husband, John, is out playing golf.
And then there is Pat, who is currently living in her winter home in Estero, Florida, and probably stuck there until it is time to go back next fall. She and her husband, Bob, are used to eating out a lot, but obviously that has ended. Rather than take the easy route and order take-out or pick up or whatever other possibilities are advertised daily, she has another plan. She has decided that for at least four dinners each week she will prepare the meals that her Italian grandmother made all those years ago. Pat said she is fortunate to have so many of her recipes in her grandmother’s own handwriting. But she is spending a lot of time “trying to translate her grandmother’s very broken English and figure out what the actual measurements are instead of a pinch of this and a handful of that.” She said the meals are delicious and bring back so many great memories.
And speaking of memories, Valerie in Santa Monica, California, is reliving a wonderful one. Many years ago, her family was given a large poster of Manhattan to color. She still recalls the fun they shared participating in this ambitious joint venture. When it was completed, the pencils were put away and the coloring stopped. A few days ago, Valerie opened a cupboard, and there were the pencils, along with a lovely coloring book of vintage flower seed packets. She now colors one page each day. “I sit outside when the weather is good, enjoying it all. It’s very relaxing.”
Last year after her mother died, Diane cleaned out her house in New York and brought back about eight boxes of papers, family albums, and important documents. It took this new stay-at-home mandate to make her finally get around to unpacking those boxes. Much to her delight, she found that she is related to a Revolutionary Patriot from 1631. For an active DAR member like Diane, this was a thrilling discovery. She is now busy looking up her genealogy to trace the link back to her.
Patti decided to try something she has never done before – chalk painting. She says she had wine bottles stashed away in all sorts of odd places, and one day she decided they should be stored somewhere more convenient for easy retrieval. She bought a large, dark brown, wooden cabinet at Rebecca’s Fabrications and chalk paint at Coastal Cottage before both complied with Governor Cooper’s request to close. She says, “I’m not a painter or an artist, and after the first coat, my cabinet looked awful. So, I rushed back to Coastal Cottage before it closed for more instructions, and the very sweet lady told me I would have to apply a second coat and maybe even a third.” Now the cabinet looks great in my front hallway, and it has 18 easily retrievable bottles of wine.
As for me, I have digitized and photoshopped several carousels of slides, some dating back more than 50 years. And in the process, I have revived long-forgotten memories of family vacations, trips with friends, and a body that could do things then that it certainly can’t do now.
There is an almost universal mania for doing jigsaw puzzles with 1,000 pieces. And now that everyone has completed all the puzzles they own, there is a wave of sharing going on. Some people leave them on their front porch with the instructions that you are welcome to take one as long as you leave one. Or take two and leave two.
Other universally popular activities include learning Zoom, walking, reading, playing bridge online, gardening, and praying. While all respondents mentioned a desire to get through this difficult time sooner rather than later, they also expressed confidence that one day we will. And until that day comes, many of them are happily engaged in something worth doing.