The tree-lined street we live on is usually lively. There are the school buses from our District office around the corner, the parents coming and going from the Catholic school at the end of the block, as well as the high school, elementary schools, and middle school all within a few blocks, and the normal array of cars that are cutting through to get to the expressway. Monday through Friday this is business as usual. On weekends we see families going to the baseball fields and running errands. But business as usual is anything but that these days. Our new “normal” is something so foreign to us that it’s been jarring. No school, no going into work, no sports, no going out. Social Distancing.
We’re all just trying to make the best of it. Trying to find the good in the little things that we can do like organizing, or cleaning up the yard in hopes of spring, spending time as a family unit. We hadn’t realized how little time was left after school, work, baseball and softball practice and games, PTA, board meetings, having weeks and days full of pre-scheduled activities. With everything on hold we have been able to see how thin we had really stretched ourselves. It was too thin. My anxiety was in a constant state of overdrive trying to keep everything in line and just so. We were doing too much because we like to think of ourselves as “the helpers” that Mr. Roger’s would talk about. The ones who would be there in any emergency to lend a helping hand with whatever our family, friends, co-workers, and community ask of us. But today being the helpers means doing exactly the opposite of what we are used to: it means staying home.
One thing my husband and I have been able to maintain is our nightly check-in when we take the dogs out before bed and unload the day. We lock up the house, get the kids settled, get ready for bed, then take the dogs out to the backyard. In the summer, we sit by our firepit and read or talk. Right now in Northern California, it’s cold and sometimes wet, and all our outdoor stuff is still covered. So, we just hang out in the dark and talk while the dogs do their business. Usually there’s a constant hum of cars passing by, going wherever they go at night. Maybe they forgot milk and they’re running to the store to grab some, or going on dates, or coming home from a long day. Now there is silence.
This quiet is part of our new normal. No one is coming or going. People are staying home as they should be. It’s strange. We go camping with friends every year way out in the sticks, but even there we can here the creek. This kind of silence can almost be unnerving, like the way snow muffles the sounds of life around it. But for me the silence means solidarity. It’s proof, every night, that people are doing what they can to take care of each other, neighbors and strangers alike. Everyone’s way of saying we’re in this together, because we are.
I believe people are good – like, inherently good. Right now we have strangers helping strangers, seamstresses across the US banding together to make facemasks for others, musicians and entertainers continuing to do what they do on social media, delivery drivers and store clerks keeping us fed, doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers fighting at the front line of this thing that has no boundaries. And some day, we will look back at this time and say, “Wow, look what we made it through.” We will hug and kiss and have BBQ’s and family dinners, we’ll hear the laughter of children and the roar of a crowd at a game. But until that day comes, I will do my part and stay out of the way. We are all in this together. There is solidarity in the silence.