“There’s no food in here!’ says the woman in front of the refrigerator.
“There’s only ingredients!”
Exactly where I am with cooking. Then, there is shopping–getting stuff out of bags, washing it, chopping, grilling, sautéing, seasoning, plating, serving, putting everything away. It all seemed so easy at some point in the far past. Like when we had parties. Or went to the movies. Or hugged our friends. Being unable to make food out of ingredients is just the beginning. There is also the general deterioration of housekeeping.
None of our friends have been allowed in our house for months. So, of course, our house is a mess. For one thing, it is strewn with half-finished projects. I set up a sewing corner where I created one of a kind masks for my family: Nana masks. You should know, I only passed 7th grade home economics by gluing my final project together. Anyway, the kids like paper masks in the summer.
We have a children’s play area in the same space with the sewing station. The gym equipment is next to the sewing machine station on the other side from the extra guitars. My poetry project is one the coffee table next to the itch spray for the dog’s skin. On the couch next to me lie the last three pages of a list of references I am checking for my Handbook Chapter with Oxford. I am filled with loathing just looking at it.There is also a novel and a book I’m reviewing along with the cross-stitch project I started three years ago.
That’s just the living room. The yard is a whole other thing. And then, of course, there are the phone calls. You can’t see anybody, so you have to talk to them on the phone or, if there are a lot of them, on Zoom. Neither Larry nor I are totally with it on our Zoom calendars, a fact which our nephew (who graduated from college in computer science and philosophy) makes abundantly clear when he entreats us to do something or other by poking about in the Zoom menu.
I fear I’m wearing down now. This must be the final stretch, right?
This month, the Governor of the Great State of California, announced an entirely new scheme for understanding who can do what where, when, and with what “modifications.” It is color-coded by county. Santa Barbara, where I live, is purple. I discover this just as I am arriving at the outdoor operation of my hair salon. Everyone is masked, outdoors, spaced (looks like plenty of room to me) apart. I relay the information to Andrea, the operator of this small, woman-owned business.
“What does that mean?” She asks.
“I’ll try to figure it out,” I say.
“Can we go back inside? Purple sounds okay.”
“The governor says that 87% of California is purple.”
It turns out that Purple is also “Tier 4,” which is pictured at the top of the scale, is the worst tier mentioned. Get this! In the new plan, Red is better than Purple. Also, there is Orange, and Yellow which are all better than Red. There is no green and I have deduced that Blue would be even worse than Purple. Who is this guy’s communication avoidance advisor? I honestly do not think that anyone can understand what the new plans means because, as upside down as it is, when you click through each level, to understand the modifications required, there is so much legalese that you give up immediately.
Apparently, the Governor and his entire team of 100 outstanding leaders on the re-opening team have reached the stage that Larry and I are at. Get obsessed by your list of references. Argue about how to hang the curtains while the house is burning down. In my neighborhood, people are at each other’s throats about the necessity of masks when you are walking your dog. We concentrate on what we think we might control as the opportunity arises.
September is the start of the school year, for heaven’s sake. This is sacred space for me as a single mother. This is the moment that, for so many years, my life became manageable almost barely. This is the time of year when I would meet my new students, when life would begin again for me as a child, when I could escape my family until at least 3pm. Other people’s blood runs high in the spring, mine peaks at the end of October. I once wrote a poem about Halloween in which I argued that it is the only good holiday.
Taking up this epistle two weeks later, I can report that we are creeping into Red—maybe Monday we will move up (although it is pictured as down on the Governor’s chart), from Purple to Red, where, apparently, those schools with good plans for safety can welcome some students back. We got indoor hair salons (with modifications) after we had been in purple for two weeks. You have to stay at each level for a minimum of two weeks.
On the TV, I hear that New York is experiencing ‘cluster outbreaks,” and maybe this is the first evidence of the “Fall Surge.” So maybe we will not get to Red this week, or if we do we will get “rolled back,” because of the surge. I wonder what is worse than purple. Will we be blue or black? Also, Halloween has been cancelled.