Norman Rockwell Quarantine

IMG_4594.jpgYou know this strange new world has actually become normal when posts on social media depicting other peoples’ quarantine days can make you feel inadequate. Because if social media is a true recording of these end-times, everybody else in the universe is doing more yoga, creating better-plated food, thinking more positively, and creating more interesting things to do with their children. They’re also taking more walks, and for this, I hate them.

It’s unfortunate such a mundane mixture of envy and inadequacy can be extrapolated from calamity, but such is human nature.  The other day, someone told me they were planning a rousing game of charades with their three teenaged children.   I immediately suggested the same to mine, which made Younger Child look up at me and say, with the weariest compassion imaginable —No one wants to play charades. 

Who cares what they want! Other families contain children chafing for charades, with the endless patience for creating whole-house Rube Goldberg machines.  That ours doesn’t can mean only one thing:  I am a bad mother.

Oh, hello, Old Feeling, I remember you!  You last roiled me before Oldest Child started school, when I was staying home with her.   Which, now that I think about it, was a certain isolated quarantine itself.

Because motherhood was so new to me back then, I spent a great deal of time reading books about the subject, and pouring over tea leaves, trying with all my might to decipher how to comport myself in the strange new world in which I found myself.

Now, I start my day skimming newspapers from three countries and scrolling through social media feeds, where, interestingly enough, people are once again making their own yogurt and starting sourdough.

Or rather, now their teenaged children are doing such things, as well as cooking all the meals.

Or so we say.

The truth is, for every beautifully-browned loaf of bread, there’s another gluey mass of dough thrown out.  For each game of charades, there’s some sniping.

For good or ill, social media was not created to convey nuance.



  1. At the start of our “shelter at home” order I decided I was going to re-read (for the first time in about 25 or so years) Anna Karenina. I made it to about page 150, very slowly, then stopped reading, and finally admitted to myself that it just wasn’t going to happen. I ordered some lighter fare (Anne Tyler’s new book and a few of the “people who bought this also bought” books) on Amazon today. I also was going to bake my own sourdough bread, complete with my own starter. On day 4 the starter – which needs to be “fed” once or twice a day with a large amount of precious flour – was safely in the turned-off oven covered in Saran Wrap and then Maggie decided to bake cookies… Tbh it didn’t have a lot of a promise even before the preheating oven situation – still no promising bubbles or yeasty aroma by day 4 in a process that should take about 7 days max. So I gave up on that too, We did make a couple of batches of bread in our bread-maker – not an appliance for a Spanish-sized kitchen. It had been collecting dust for about 5 years in my American-sized pantry.

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