COVIDiaries-19: F*ck the Establishment

No longer as worried about myself or my family getting sick from COVID-19, I briefly considered the feeling my friend aptly described as an armadillo sitting on her chest may be grief; now I understand: it’s anger. Yeah, I’m mad.

I’d been in sitting up in a rented upper in 2003, trying to relax between a night of tending bar and a morning of assistant-teaching preschool when I heard the U.S. had started dropping bombs on Iraq. I’d come up as short of breath I feel now.

When I moved into my apartment in Uptown, Minneapolis, in 2008, I ate catering leftovers from the Republican National Convention (RNC): even though the convention was at about one-eighth capacity, they’d bought out the entire restaurant. So. Much. Waste.

In 2013 in Istanbul I’d had to dance around riot police blocking my street on my way to get copies. When I was done teaching, a tear gas canister went off right in front of me and there I was in black, running with the capulcular, not looking back.

By 2018 I was in my house with my husband and two kids in Douglas, Alaska, tele-editing the German news website and making mostly comfortable mortgage payments. Around Christmas, just before I would begin editing my last articles for the website, which were about something called the Corona virus, I got an email my position would be eliminated.

A friend in the Alaska State Capitol helped me make some contacts and I was able to start working as a House secretary the day after the website job ended. It took four different configurations of childcare but Jacob and I figured out how we could both work full time.

And then, the closures: first our daughter’s preschool, then our son’s daycare, and finally our daughter’s daycare; all of our lovely places.  It was the right decision, of course, but at a cost to our kids, who are very social and miss them, and yet… many places haven’t closed, managing to devalue those that have, in accordance with Governor Mike Dunleavy’s cowardly half-measures.

He’s gonna shut it down, I have been saying for over a week about the governor whose recall petition was graciously delivered to me in my car when my son was sleeping, when his decisions were in a way so much more theoretical and not so heavy-hearted. I really have no idea why I expected him to do the right thing.

Last night, The Alaska State Employees Association said office workers who need the jobs the most are the most vulnerable. Public health crisis notwithstanding, we can’t #stayhome if it has not been mandated, and we need the money, end of story.

The U.S. drops bombs; you leave the country and make lifelong friends. You take all the food you can carry from the RNC, give half to your brother. The police burn your tent when you are sleeping in a park to try to protect it. You run away with your friends, laughing.

But this is something completely different than any of these aforementioned scenarios in which I had F*ck the Establishment moments once every five years and then returned to regular life: COVID-19 is regular life, and it hits a bit harder when my daughter asks about her teacher, still not able to understand where she went.

Grocery shopping on my lunch break, red-rimmed, masked folks steer clear of me in shelf-stripped Foodland. I am dazed, seeing for the first time the emptiness, and feeling the widespread panic, when I gravitate toward laughter among the deli workers; I find my voice catches when I thank them for still making sushi.

Back to work.

 

 

Women’s Day

I made thin pancakes and sliced up a mango, which I was delighted to see Imogen roll up in her pancake.  Some friends came over to play in the snow and we had Girl Scout cookies, cinnamon rolls, and chili.  Everyone slid on our outside play house. Imogen watched Secret Life of Pets 2 on the projector and I folded laundry until Ansel asked me for a pickle and an apple and, wanting neither, went down for his nap. When Jacob came home I went to the library to write and just sat there and zoned out.  We’d been at friends’ houses Thursday night and Friday night, and had skiing and a birthday party on Saturday.

I’d woke up one-eyeing Ansel who had been switching my lamp on and off, and Jacob saying Happy Women’s Day, with Imogen in the crook of my arm. Ansel had woken up before 5:00 a.m. for the second day in a row. It was 6:15 and already my turn, but Jake had left the pancake batter, coffee, and a fire… the same fire that is still burning now, as everyone sleeps and I sneak a little bit of time.

God Bless us all.

J.

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My girl Sunday

Getting ready for the party starts when I bring her a clean shirt and she barrel rolls off the side of the bed, getting her leg stuck between the frame and the wall, then insists I change her into a dress because her friend might be wearing a dress (that friend, as it turned out, had come from snowboarding and was wearing a base layer).

When I ask her to put her boots on she runs into the closet, but we finally get down to the car and soon she’s kicking her brother’s seat, and then she kicks his fingers and he cries. By the time we’re on the main road they’re both crying.

She’s saying Mom Mom MOM and I’m just looking straight ahead not changing my expression. It’s snowing and slushy and I don’t feel like indulging her. She keeps it up until we get to the turn off to the party and I head the other way, back toward home. She knows it and tells me she’s going to calm down.

We get to the party at the gymnastics center and she snags some butterfly wings someone had left out, and her friend won’t say hi to her until she has some too so we find some more and they run around in circles like ribbons. I’m dizzy when she runs over and gives me a big hug.

We hear the happy birthday song and she almost loses it again because she doesn’t have her wings on even though she had just asked me to take them off. She sits down and has a cupcake and is incredulous that her friend is allowed to have two.

Leaving is almost as big a scene as arriving. She doesn’t want ANYONE to go. The birthday boy’s mom, who is also there with her 1.5 week old baby girl, finally calms Immy down, telling her everyone has to go, gets her some chips, helps me get coats.

When I get them buckled in and look in the mirror I am sweating and have frizzy hair and boogers. Having lost my center would have been a nice way to put it.

It’s done snowing and I take a sip of my coffee even though it’s five p.m. The sun is setting behind the clouds. It’s actually orange and I realize I don’t remember the last time I’d seen that.

When we get home Jacob has grocery shopped and made some halibut our neighbor gave us. He puts the kids to bed and I clean the kitchen. When we debrief, the main idea is that the past month has been just as hard for our kids as it has been for us.

I had been saying at the party that Imogen’s situation has changed the least of the four of us: now, as my husband tells me, I’m different, not in a bad way, but I have less time to do what I was doing at the time, cleaning and organizing the kid play kitchen; i.e., being around at every moment for my kids, and it hits me that my starting a full time job, to my kid, is another way (of many) that I will show her that I am not just hers.

How was it? Jacob had asked our daughter when we got home.

I wore butterfly wings and hugged mom, Imogen had said.

So, that was her takeaway.  This time, I’m going to make it mine too.

That hug, and the sunset.

J.

Another beloved transition

I always feel the need to post when transitioning, so why should this time be any different? The job I’ve had since August of 2015 ends Wednesday, and on Thursday I start a new position as a committee secretary in the Alaska Legislature’s department of House Records. It’s never easy to change jobs, and the logistics can seem a bit tiresome to those not directly involved, but to Jacob and me and our kids it’s maybe the biggest change since we’ve moved here! This position is only guaranteed through May but of course I’m hoping to be asked to stay on. Just have to do a good job!

So I started working for Deutsche Welle’s English service as a freelance copy editor in 2015, just days after moving to Bonn from Istanbul. The “German BBC” office was a ginormous, sparkling labyrinth. There were very strict rules in the cafeteria. I got a thrill out of riding my bike to and from there for work and German language classes, and eventually it occurred to me that I could do my job from home, so when I was about eight months pregnant with Imogen I began that phase. The only time I went back, 2mo Baby Imogen was in the wrap and I asked if I could continue to do the job from Alaska. They said yes! So we packed everyone up and telecommuting 4900 miles commenced.

A little over three years and one more baby later, the “gravy train” has finally come to a screeching halt, as myself and the other four copy editors were simply informed in a few-sentence email that there was no longer budget for us. Ansel had just turned 20mo, the same age Imogen was when she started DaveCare, her “tribe” down the street, two days a week. As luck would have it our neighbor, a SAHM and face painter-for-hire, agreed to take care of Ansel during the time before he can join his sister, and at our house, no less, with her daughter who is almost his same age. Off we go!

And, as often happens when everything is thrown into sudden upheaval (i.e. no mortgage payment would happen on one income; no second job would happen on no “Beebcare”) and then it manages somehow to sort of-kind of-maybe work out… everyone, especially Jacob, got very sick. Fever and chills. Vomiting. Fatigue. All the blissful January perks. And I see how.much.he.helps… and how small our place is. So Beeb is also very congested and not up for a rain scramble, even in the right clothes, and Imogen is on the mend but growing and tired… so when my mom friends are traipsing up to Eaglecrest, we’re at Mickey D’s. Just catching up, hanging in there, whatever verb phrase works.

All the love this transition and always, to all of us. I hope we all make it.

J.

 

Ready

you gotta be you gotta be, you gotta be you gotta be, you gotta be you gotta be, you gotta be you gotta be ready – Dolly Parton, I Believe in You

After Imogen and dad’s yard camping night, which required base layer, bear robe, crocs, waterproof mattress, and books, we made the plan: beach, which required pistachios, macadamias, the kite, swimsuits for three of the four of us (remember her face when you got into swimsuit; don’t think about how cold the water is…), swim diaper for Beeb, all the buckets,

commence her running into and out of channel, jumping on a crab pot string, squealing with delight, pulling crab pot around, trying to touch fish head inside said crab pot, giggling, laughing, more running in and out of the water. Rolling around in the sand. Flying the kite, again and again and again until the plastic tail feathers are too wet and sandy. Allowing me to dry her off, put dry clothes on her, wrap her in a sarong and snuggle her while she eats pistachios and watches her brother and dad watch yet another cruise ship come into port.

Dad carries home most of the way. Hot dog lunch. Youtube “Jolene,” many versions. Another plan, another beach: a long-sleeve because enough sun is enough. A “mom” hair tie. Tears over which shoes. Tears over wanting to go, but also wanting to stay home and pluck raspberries off the neighbor’s raspberry bush. Mom holds; decides everyone should stay home. Neighbor gives handfuls of raspberries and two crabs caught in the pots with which she’d been playing.

Happy again: cracking, scooping crab, eating meat with fingers. Tricycle riding, all the way to the elementary school down the street: owl helmet, warm back. Absolutely not letting mom help steer. Ready for bed. Shampoo and Conditioner. Look at the ceiling. We didn’t get soap in eyes. Yes we did. Clean sheets. Books. Dolly, who leads me back to ready.

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Imogen ending her second year strong at Sandy Beach, one of the last days of summer, 2019.

School daze

It’s late September in southeast Alaska and the tops of the mountains are already covered in snow. I hope it’s only been a day or two that they have been, although it’s very possible they’ve been that way for a week and I’ve only just managed to look up at them.

It took about a month for our co-op nursery group to iron out all of its own kinks, as it does and has been doing since long before I’ve been in charge of it. One “kink” was my realizing Ansel wasn’t quite ready as he still naps at this time, which is how I’m able to sit down for an hour before we pick up Imogen.

Any new thing is hard, especially at three, especially something as structured and multifaceted as preschool. As is usually the case, I wasn’t able to prepare my daughter in advance for all of the changes this would bring, not only for her but for all of us, but I suppose that is how learning takes place: on the fly.

A parent is allowed to come with the new preschooler the first time they spend a whole day there, so I did, and I watched her pretty much sail through meeting the Guinea Pig Stumps, dress-up/play time, group story time, snack time, and outside play time. She was ready. And she had so much fun!

Her first day by herself was her third birthday. We opened presents first thing in the morning, and by the time we headed out the door, first me and the baby, then the birthday girl in her rainbow unicorn headband holding her new kitty from Nana, and finally Nana behind her holding 20 ‘worms and dirt’ birthday treat, Imogen was so keyed up she fell headfirst down our stairs.

Thankfully, I was just the right distance in front of her that she didn’t tumble, and, amazingly, she didn’t get hurt at all save her pride, which is what seems to take the most bumps on the road from toddlerdom to preschool kid, the first of many times in life when you’re not little anymore but not really big yet.

A friend was driving by at that time and sang her a little song, and pretty soon she was telling Miss Mary that they were real worms in her treat, and it was all okay. I’d heard that there could be some ‘backsliding,’ but thought we were good… except suddenly she didn’t want to go.

Our nursery room is right down the hall, and after we left her she followed us there, squeezing real tears out of her eyes. I reminded her our group was for the littles… and now she was a big who got to go in all the other rooms, and reminded her that Mary said she could ask her anything, and somehow it worked.

With Nana the morning of her third birthday.

She started walking away from me, back toward the preschool. She sniffled and looked back. There was no one around, so I told her to run. She did.