Archive for July, 2020

NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC May 10-July 5, 2020

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

I have been having a hard time writing since quarantine started over 4 months ago. But, on Mother’s Day I inadvertently started a new mini-blog series that I have been posting on Facebook and Instagram. I figure it would be good to archive here, and share with those of you who are not on social media. Here is the first two months of what I am calling Notes from a Pandemic.


May 10, 2020

Mother’s Day 2020: After dinner my 11.5 year-old asked to sit on my lap. For breakfast Oscar and David made cheddar scallion cornmeal biscuits, served with fresh-squeezed orange juice, an egg, fresh blueberries, and two little vases of flowers from our yard. Before that I lay in bed reading, for a long time, something I have not had much luck doing lately. It was wonderful. There was crying today. And a little bit of yelling. And a video visit with my mom. David hit it out of the park for dinner, too—there was carmelized onion, rosemary, and potato galettes for dinner, with collard greens sautéed in garlic and ginger, and last night’s red lentils. And a blueberry galette for dessert. We all watched the last two episodes of Raising Dion together on the couch in the late morning/early afternoon, and then stayed on the couch. I wrote a tiny bit, another thing I have not had much luck doing lately. I texted a few moms I love. I was not crazy exhausted because I was not up until 1:00 am last night, like I have been the last 4 Mother’s Day Eves, because there was no Listen to Your Mother show last night, and no after party at Nox, our local literary-themed bar. I read emails from a few of the women who took my Writing Motherhood class yesterday, the first class I have taught by Zoom, and the first writing workshop I have taught for adults in a couple of years. It was a gift. This kid, he is my heart. Being a mother is my favorite. I have learned and grown exponentially in the last 11.5 years. I love this kid with my whole heart. The three of us talked for over an hour beyond bedtime in Oscar’s room tonight. A family heart-to-heart. There were more tears. This is hard, these times. And there are so many ways we have it easy. And yet. This is so hard. We get through this together. Together as a family. And all of us together apart. Thanks to Gina Perri Cannady for her post today that reminded me that all us mothers out here, we’re holding each other up. It is reading the little tidbits of your days here on Facebook, or in your blogs, or quarantine memes, or stunning literary essays in high profile magazines that is getting me through. The power of narrative is real. Your words matter. They land somewhere and have an impact. I am grateful for all the mothers out there. And I’m going to try more often to put words together myself, so maybe we all will feel a little less alone as we live this life alone, together.



NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 5/14/20: David and I both agreed tonight that for the most part we don’t mind being home all the time. We like home. We like not having to rush around to places and obligations and responsibilities (granted we have to rush into the next room to log onto the next meeting, etc, but it’s more laid back at home). I got 50 lbs of bread flour in the mail this week (sharing half with a friend). This photo shows the first thing I made with it, a pain de campagne, it was fun to make this fancy shape. I have found comfort and gratitude in putting flour and water and yeast and salt together to make something nourishing and delicious for about the past 15 years, this is not a new pastime for me, but I am grateful to have the time at home to dedicate to it. I decided today that all the money we’re saving by not buying gas, we should be spending on whiskey and rum. It’s another kind of fuel. And I’m not usually that much of a drinker. Oscar has a friend who he has sometimes been eating dinner with—through a screen—it’s awesome. So David and I had dinner together tonight, not a date, but just the two of us in the kitchen, Oscar in his room. I’m trying to practice putting words together because maybe if I practice enough I’ll remember how to do it without having to try really really hard. David has to go back to work in June, which is a thing that has been hanging over this whole quarantine, we knew eventually he’d have to go back. We don’t know yet what it will mean for us. We are researching, and we know there are no real answers, so we’ll have to make decisions based on best guesses. None of us are looking forward to this. As hard, and stressful, and weird as these weeks have been, we are so grateful for this time together as a family.



NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 5/21/20: “Relatively, super ok.” This is what I texted to my dear cousin who is like my little brother several weeks ago when he checked in on us, as we’ve been checking in on each other throughout these times. It was an honest response in the moment, I didn’t think much of it, but it has become his go-to answer of how he and his family are. And indeed it sums up how we as a family are in these times. We are so grateful we have each other, our home, food, jobs, heath care, our health (knock on wood). Some days and some moments are hard, scary, overwhelming, debilitating. Some days and some moments are filled with laughter, gratitude, peace, raucous dance parties, meaningful connection despite isolation. Yesterday we got in the van and took a walk outside of our neighborhood, something we have barely done. The sky was finally blue. We saw only a dozen other people on the path we were on, half of whom were wearing masks. Sometimes we waved and smiled—hopefully it showed in our eyes. Every time, we veered away to the edge of the path. Sometimes the other person did too. What a world right now that this is how we care for each other, show appreciation, to move away from a stranger on a simple walk. Here in the northern reaches the trees are finally starting to burst with chartreuse, and blossoms are opening up. And we continue to be, relatively, super ok.



NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 5/25/20: My Mom’s birthday. We had a social distance brunch. We cooked, first time we’ve shared food with anyone in 2.5 months. It was a beautiful day to sit outside, soaking up time with my amazing mom. Gifts in the time of COVID—I made her a mask using some special fabric I found among my sewing things in the basement recently. The fabric is from when I was a kid, and she had terrible tendonitis, and was told she had to wear a sling (actually she was told she had to wear two, go figure!). She wanted no part of a boring clinical looking sling, so bought this boldly colored fabric with dancers, we both loved the fabric so much, and somehow I ended up with it and just rediscovered it. AND she presented US with a gift. My mom, who is a master knitter who always has several projects going, and who has been knitting for 65 years, during this pandemic has rekindled her love of cross-stitch. She cross-stitched our family to commemorate this time! What a remarkable woman. Happy Birthday Mom. We love you!!!



(photo credit: Oscar)
NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 6/2/2020: Yesterday we took a break from it all. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, and our country is on fire. We drove out of our city to a tiny little gravel parking lot and walked on this path for a couple hours, where we saw almost no one else. The path meandered mostly through green spaces, and also over this old railroad bridge. And Oscar asked to take our photo, and directed us to take off our masks, and move more into the light. It was so simple and so endearing. Yesterday also marked the last day that David was home, as he had to go back to work today. We have had two and a half months with the three of us being home together 24/7. There is plenty that has not been easy about this time, but what a gift, the time together. Never before have we had that amount of uninterrupted time together, and it’s quite possible that we never will again. For some of our walk we were quiet, and listened. And for some of our walk we talked, about the heavy feeling we are all carrying related to the events of the past week in this country. Over the weekend Oscar asked, “How did racism start in the first place?” And that’s when I decided that this summer he and I should read Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Apparently a lot of other people had that idea, too, because when I tried to order it, it was on backorder. I’m glad. We can be patient. There are too many thoughts and feelings running through me to even begin to put a sliver of them down into words. We are talking, everyday, as a family. About racism, about the shameful history of our country, about our white privilege, and how we can use it to do better. One thing I know for sure, the three of us will keep learning. We’re committed to it.



NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 6/14/2020: Since David went back to work two weeks ago, Oscar and I have been late to every single Zoom PT session. Balancing Oscar’s most basic needs, plus his appointments, plus a hint of school (we’ve almost completely given up) as it winds down, plus any kind of mother/son connection whatsoever with my very busy work-from-home schedule is super challenging.

Despite the fact that I grew up with two hippie-era parents who have been fighting for racial justice for decades, marching in the streets (getting arrested), calling and writing and showing up to engage politicians, enacting policy change within their own workplaces, and so much more—half of which I may never even know, despite the fact that they have taught me so much about what is right and what is wrong the world, it is really only within the last 5-10 years that I have really been able to start to understand my own white privilege. My own complicit part in racism. And I know I have so much more to learn. And I’m seeing this in my communities—white folk just starting to understand what their privilege means, or not yet being able to see it at all. I am hearing stories of my friends and family having conversations for the first time with their friends and family about racism, about white privilege, about needed change. And I’m so grateful that it seems like the door is being cracked open just a little more, that us white folk are learning just a little bit more collectively, and that’s how change can happen. But just a little isn’t enough. AND IT SHOULDN’T TAKE ANOTHER BLACK MAN BEING MURDERED BY A POLICE OFFICER TO MAKE CHANGE HAPPEN. When will the collective white voice start trusting the collective Black voice? White people have to stop claiming that they know more about Black experience than Black people do. That’s racism.

We were supposed to be at the national SMA conference right now, today would have been the last of the 4 days. We’ve missed it the last 2 years and were so looking forward to going. I miss the community of people, our “mainland” as David calls it and I’ve written about before. We canceled our vacation this summer, too. Knowing we were going to be spending mostly all of our time at home this summer, we decided to get a fire pit and some new chairs for our yard. I am so grateful. Just two fires in, I can see how good this is going to be on so many levels. The quiet of sitting outside under the night sky, flames licking at the wind, the wood crackling, the smell in the air. There is something so simple and so almost primeval about sitting around a fire. It brought me a deep sense of peace. A quieting of the mind that is always buzzing these days—with the news, with work, with parenting—all simultaneously. And at our second fire, one of Oscar’s closest friends who lives around the corner joined us (with mask and at a safe distance) and we talked and talked, the four of us, mostly about Radiohead and police brutality, but a little about online school and silly things that made us all laugh, too. It was pure joy to welcome him into the fold—I miss Oscar’s friends as much as I miss my own, and this can be a way we can gather.

Gather. Gather community. Gather against injustice. Gather thoughts and feelings. Gather quiet. Gather laughter. Gather words on a paper or screen. Gather love. Let’s gather, ok?



NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 6/15/20: I had my first in-person work meeting in three months! My two incredible SummerWrite coordinators came and sat in my front yard so we could work on planning our staff training (which will take place on Zoom). What joy!



NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 6/23/20: Today I set foot in a building that is not my own home for the first time in three months, in order to exercise my right to vote. I applied for an absentee ballot, but it never arrived. So I did what I had to do.



NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 7/3/2020: I don’t take photos of the meltdowns. I take photos of the melting ice cream we eat after we move past them. I remember when I was a kid my mom said people asked her why all the photos of me were smiling, why didn’t she have any photos of me crying, and her reply was that when I was crying she was engaging with me, comforting me, finding out what was going on, and parenting me. Without ever having been asked that question myself, I realize I am the same way. When we’re in the mess together, we’re in the mess together, not documenting it. This is a photo from earlier this week, not too long after we both had a meltdown. A version of a meltdown one or both of us has at least once or twice a week because working and parenting simultaneously is hard, being 11 and needing to rely on someone else for a bunch of your physical needs (that someone else who during the day is only your mom who is working, and her own physical strength is not keeping up great with your growing body) is hard. If you haven’t, please read Deb Perelman’s (of Smitten Kitchen!) piece in the New York Times from yesterday, “In the Covid-19 Economy You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both.” And the thing is, my boss is AMAZING. She gets it. She’s super flexible and accommodating. And so do my two summer coordinators. Amazing humans. And David is THE BEST. He gets it more than any dad I know. And it’s still hard. And it will be. And that’s simply the world we are living in right now in a global pandemic. And we are the lucky ones. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. We have jobs. We have health insurance. We have our health (knock on wood). We have food and shelter. A really nice shelter, in fact, that I still don’t mind being “stuck” in. And we have each other. It’s only been 3.5 months. And Covid is going no where, the numbers are making that clear. And we’re not going anywhere either. We’ll stay home and take every precaution we have to for as long as it takes. Oscar and I like to say that ice cream runs in the Bonn blood, and there are several others in the extended Bonn family that would agree with us. And we’re ice cream snobs. The homemade ice cream at Pittsford Dairy is our favorite. Oscar and I can often be found there once a week (or more) during the summer. So all along my dad has been getting us containers of Pittsford Dairy Ice Cream, curbside, and this week we ordered cones in our grocery order and we made our own at-home Dairy experience. It was the perfect antidote to a meltdown, and we’ll be doing this regularly. The little things. Whatever it takes to stay sane. To stay safe. To try to keep the world around us safe.


July5-1 July5-2

NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 7/5/2020: 168 years ago today, just a few miles from our home, Frederick Douglass gave one of his most significant speeches, “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?” Here is one small excerpt from this speech, “I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine.”

So, yesterday we went to visit Frederick Douglass’s gravesite at Mt Hope Cemetery. We came home and watched a video (available on NPR) of a group of young people, all descendants of Frederick Douglass, reciting this speech. This morning I sit reading Dr. Krystal M. Fleming’s brilliant words in her book, “How to Be Less Stupid About Race,” and I am learning more all the time. Did you know that in the US, on average, white families have 10 to 13 times the wealth of black and hispanic families? And in Washington DC white families are 81 times wealthier than black families? I knew there was a serous gap, but I didn’t know it looked like that. For our family, the Fourth of July is no longer a national holiday to be celebrated—though I’m not sure we ever really looked at it that way. It is a day to be extra-conscious in our learning, in our anti-racism.

The fourth of July does hold a different kind of special place of celebration in our family, though. David and I like to say that is the day, 26 years ago, the fireworks went off for us. I’m filled with gratitude for this human I share this life with. This person who asks questions, and listens. This person who supports me in my creativity and intellect. This person who is so creative himself, and smarter and wiser than he’ll ever give himself credit for. This person who is so deeply dedicated to the well-being of our family. This person who is the best parenting partner I could ever imagine. This person who endlessly brings music, literally and figuratively, into my life and our home.