In light of the deluge of questions I’ve received about contagion, children, closures and Covid 19, this post is a quick note of ideas I have in response to social distancing. It is informed by science, by my life’s experiences and by those of some of my elders.
My mother and her family were quarantined when polio afflicted my aunt. I have heard the stories of how the house was tagged with a notice of quarantine, and how groceries were left on the doorstep. One day, a bouquet of roses was left. That day, everything changed for the better. My aunt recovered, in ways that some of her family attributed to Divine intervention. They had prayed to the “little flower”, St Therese. Then the roses appeared and she quickly improved.
They eventually were told that a florist had passed their house daily, feeling sad for them as he saw the sign on the door. One day, his scheduled delivery of roses didn’t happen, because the address wasn’t correct or there had been a mix up. So he decided to leave them as a gift, anonymously, at the door. That gift has been remembered for 90 years.
Older generations grew up with contagion, quarantine, fear and resolve. It was a familiar pattern of life, undoubtedly stressful, but not shocking. I imagine some managed it well and others showed their worst sides. I know that before my aunt became ill, a little boy mocked her every day on her way to school, calling her a “dirty little Irisher” and throwing pebbles at her and my mother. He was of some other white American ethnic background, living in the same PA town. When they complained to his mother, she voiced her approval of her son.
Those two stories told to me by my aunt have me thinking of how we can respond now. Friends ask if they can have their children go to play spaces or plan play dates. People are stressed at the idea of isolation. So what if we practiced safe isolation, helped others in isolation, and got creative? Here are some ideas, in no particular order, and certainly not exhaustive:
- Play “Tag the House”. At Halloween and Christmas, I have seen doors tagged with a fun paper signs that show treats have been left for the occupants. The tag stays up during the season, and the occupant is meant to tag someone else’s house. Invent a fun icon and tag a house. Make copies of your icon for others to use. Get creative–maybe you can even leave a roll of toilet paper!
- If you have play dates, plan to have them with the same three friends for the whole month. Don’t mix and match, or it defeats the whole point. Absolutely no play spaces like those areas at fast foods or anywhere indoors at big play areas.
- Play Pioneer Days. I still remember going to a friend’s house when I was nine, and we did an old fashioned taffy pull. It was so fun! We dressed up in “pioneer” clothes.You can teach your children to sew by hand, you can make a corn husk doll (I did that too), you can even learn to make a quilt together. If you are doing this with a couple of friends, you can contribute patches. Or knit a prayer shawl for someone in the hospital.
- If this sounds too girly, try tug of war, sack races, whittling (for older ones), or building a fort. Make a campfire (safely) and sleep outside in your back yard, if it is warm enough. Let your children stay up late and look at the stars. Learn constellations. Hunt for 4 leaf clovers. Go on a walk and identify all the birds by name and the plants. Make a leaf press and then make a cards with the leaves or flowers. Send the cards to nursing homes. Paint pictures for people in nursing homes. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know your children.
- Why does May Day have to happen just once a year? Gather little bouquets or make early spring wreaths and secretly drop them at someone’s house. Children love to surprise others.
- Go Corona Caroling. Most families have never been Christmas caroling. We did it with our friends years ago and were amazed that no one in our neighborhood had experienced it. The older folks really loved it. The Italians are singing from their balconies. Who cares if you can’t carry a tune? Make some homemade instruments and go in groups of 8 or less (the same groups, remember) and go sing some songs to folks who are shut in.
- Write letters. Who doesn’t love snail mail? If you want to stay in Pioneer Day mode, help your children learn some script. Any script. It isn’t taught anymore. Surely, you have some friends and relatives who would love mail–including your own children and their friends!
- Paint some furniture. It is easy to get a sample size can of paint and paint an old chair or old table or even a picture frame. Let your child pick the color. They will love it for years.
- Don’t distance yourself from fun. Or learning. Or worship. Stretch, like the taffy. Creatively interact–even without a computer! Map your walks and try to amass miles with your family. Share what works. You don’t need to try to keep everything you had. Enjoy less materialism and more creative, contagious charity (love).
- The End