Fantastic Friday: putting away the lunchbox

Friday was my second day home from work after my district, like so many other schools in the nation, announced a closing that would encompass “at least” the next two weeks. The first day off, I made arrangements. Made sure we had a full fridge and freezer. (No, I didn’t buy toilet paper ?). Made sure I had activities for the kids for the coming weeks. I caught up on day-to-day chores like dishes and laundry.

The second day, I tackled what I call “summer chores,” household projects I used to do over the summers before I had kids. Putting up shelves. Rearranging and organizing. It was during my cleaning of the kitchen/entryway that I saw my lunchbox. I keep it out on the counter for most of the year, since I use it for daily lunches at work, except I put it away during the summer when I’m off, and sometimes over winter break.

Without thinking, I put the lunchbox away in the out-of-the-way cabinet I store it in over the summer. It wasn’t until later that I realized the significance of that. It was me mentally letting go of my job for at least a little while. This is not to say I dislike my job or am glad to be on an involuntary break. I do actually enjoy my work. And as a teacher, it does take effort to let go of the momentum I’ve built up over the year and worry about how (if directed) we will put content online and even begin to replace the day-to-day goings-on of the classroom and the publications I run. But I’ve read enough articles about the pandemic to know that letting go, for now, is the best course of action.

My family often spoke of my grandmother’s parents, who perished in the Spanish Flu epidemic a hundred years ago. It orphaned my grandmother and her siblings, and that changed the course of her life, and not for the better. Reading about how the current closures may prevent such a thing from repeating really got me thinking.

So while some friends and colleagues are panicking, today I found great optimism in the fact that the nation is mostly shutting down, or trying to, anyway. We are shutting down preemptively, in hopes of cutting down on the spread of the virus. In this action is great hope, not the despair of shutting down on the other end of the pandemic, when it is a last-resort. This is a shutting down when most are still healthy, to spare the most vulnerable, not a shutting down in fear that we may be next.

Putting away my lunchbox was an acknowledgment of the fact that, despite my belief in my job and its importance, there is something greater, something greater than most things, and that is considering the lives of others. It’s not blindly following the words of a leader or an expert; it’s simply thinking of fellow humans.

I waited a day to upload this post because I wanted a night to reflect on everything. We are, after all, living history right now, and it’s a bit absurd to wrap the brain around.

I forgot today is March 14, or 3.14, “Pi Day.” Normally, in my English class, I try to introduce the novel Life of Pi on or around this date. But in the disruption of the closures, I had forgotten. My family normally celebrates Pi Day by baking a pie. I didn’t want the closures to break this tradition, so I rummaged in the freezer, not wanting to head to the grocery store for something frivolous. Luckily, I had half a pie shell.

Pi day pieI searched the Internet and pieced together a chocolate pie from several recipes using elements I have on-hand while the kids ran around the house and yelled and fought. When all is said and done, the pie looks just okay but tastes great, rich chocolate sauce layered with pudding and melted marshmallow sauce (and topped with more chocolate, of course. Because can there ever really be enough?).

I have heard so many parents complain about having to be home—quarantined, essentially—with their kids without being able to leave their house/neighborhood, and as a parent I do know how hard it’s going to be. But I look at the pie I made, a hodgepodge of ingredients I scraped together, and although it might not look the best, it works.

I’m hoping it’s a metaphor for the next month or two. With grocery lines and shortages, mild panic and political criticisms being thrown left and right, things don’t look the best right now. But I think deep down, there is something sweet going on, and that says more about humanity than the panic and mudslinging. And it’s that element I hope history will remember.

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