EVERYONE HAS A STORY - Week Four
March 24th -March 27th
By this time, every morning and every day was beginning to blur together. One thing I insisted on for both my great-niece and myself…we get dressed, take a shower, brush our hair…every day. My reasoning was sound, as there is nothing that provides energy more than feeling fresh and ready for anything. Even if it meant searching out the internet for meaningful and educational kiddie documentaries, or adding art apps that were accompanied by mind-numbing Muzak, enough to lulll us back to sleep by 11:00a.m.
“I’m hungry,” became the constant plea, and while I didn’t want to deny food or snacks, being hungry really meant “I’m bored,” “I’m scared,” “I’m nervous,” “I’m upset,” and most importantly, “I miss Mommy and Daddy.” Their hours did not diminish, in fact they increased, and it became apparent that their important jobs meant long hours and overtime. I wasn’t privileged to know everything that was going on, but along with the quarantine orders, it was not what anyone anticipated with our first month on the Island coming to a close.
The world was on edge, and I will admit that I was as confused as everyone else, wondering how long this was going to last, and ultimately coming to grips with the truth - No one really knew. Our temporary quarters were squeezing us, especially because we were no longer allowed to take day trips, visit the beaches, attend school, play with friends or swim in the pools. The kitchen was TINY, truly a one-man show, but I managed to put healthy, satisfying meals on the table for dinner, and succumbed to Annie’s Mac and Cheese and Dinosaur nuggets most days for lunch. My little kindergartener wanted hot chocolate – no matter that it was 75 degrees outside most days - and since we weren’t able to go to the grocery store, I ordered a 50-pack box from Amazon. It was like a party when it arrived a few days later. We put the brakes on cookies and chips in the house, and walked a lot. So far, so good. We were all healthy and strong. I couldn’t wait for the goods to be delivered to their new home so we could finally get settled and create a sense of normalcy, comforted by their own possessions from beds and couches, to family photos and dish towels.
Finally, on Tuesday, the goods were delivered from the docks to the new home. My nephew met the movers, who worked all day, unpacking crate after crate of household goods. Their home back East was 3200 sf. The new house, about 1800 sf. I tried not to overthink it, but was happy they were young and could manage a move of this magnitude. We were not allowed to touch anything for three days, careful not to come into contact with the items that had been delivered for fear of contracting the virus. My nephew was finally able to get a couple days off to re-construct the beds, set up the alarm system and ensure that cable had been installed. Everything was delivered in pieces, and it took him hours to assemble the beds, couches, end tables, dressers, dining table and chairs. It was an assault of boxes, in some places stacked 10-feet high, with little space to walk or relax. It would take days to sort through everything. Packers on the East Coast created a work of art, in a sense. Every glass, every spoon, bowl, hairbrush, deck of cards – masterfully wrapped in triplicate with precision and care.
Wednesday afternoon, the end of the day, uneventful like all the rest. My niece suddenly dashed through the door from work. Great, she was home early, and might be able to take an evening walk by myself. Not so. She rushed in, breathless, “Tsunami Warning!” Did I just hear, Tsunami Warning? I wasn’t scared, just wasn’t quite sure how one was supposed to react. I looked at the little one, who heard the same words I did. She startled and started to shake, a little tearful, but within moments, she had dashed upstairs, pulled out her little Mickey Mouse suitcase and threw bathing suits, shorts, T-shirt’s, shoes, socks, and underwear in the bag. She grabbed her American Girl dolls, her daughters as she calls them, and before making the final descent down the stairs, grabbed a towel and a roll of toilet paper. In her words, “Just in case we need to freshen up.” Adorable in the midst of everything that was happening.
She was set, and even though I had only brought one suitcase and a carry-on with me that I never unpacked, it was doubtful it would all fit in the small SUV. We had three people, a car seat, a large dog, along with his food and supplies. My niece still needed to pack for both herself and her husband, making the best of the space in the car, in case we were unable to return. I had no idea where we might be headed, was told higher ground, as even the new home was in the flood plan and would not offer us a safe place to wait out this emergency. Every conceivable snack was packed, along with water and medication. Within fifteen minutes we were ready to leave the house and head to God knows where. As the hatch was ready to come down on the overstuffed vehicle, the Warning was suddenly canceled. It was a strange ending, quiet, uneventful, we pulled all our belongings out of the car, dragged them back into the house, and had leftovers for dinner. The breathless moment had passed. What appeared to have been an impending disaster, turned out to be very good exercise in preparedness. I think we all passed.
It rained a lot towards the end of the week, and much of the day was spent inside. The chalk drawings that were “art class” the day before, washed away with the first downpour. Regular schoolwork was resisted on a daily basis. I did my best to incorporate a lesson into our daily, repetitive activities, and was relieved whenever a virtual play date entertained and delighted our kindergartener. Playing is an important component of learning, and this generation of children is adept at connecting through technology. It finally seemed like the “bad” internet was being overtaken by a flood of people, young and old, attempting to stay in touch and create meaningful memories on screen, even if they couldn’t be together in person.
I was starting to feel like a burden. It was never suggested – ever – that I wasn’t anything but a great help to my niece and her family during this time, but the whole reason for my being there seemed to have morphed into something quite different, almost overnight. A conversation with my daughter late in the week was even more unsettling. She had a cough – a bad one. My daughter, my son and my niece were all adamant, DO NOT RETURN UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. I was over 2500 miles away from her and home, with no other options other than to stay put.
I am surrounded by family who love me, and children who don’t want to put me in harm’s way
The temporary housing situation is coming to a close
I had the opportunity to enjoy some of the most scenic strolls around the resorts, without cars, without people, without the frenetic rush of tourists and crowds. It was both surreal and breathtaking.