Thursday, August 27, 2020

Our Life in Covid Times

My last post ended with the statement “we have been very, very lucky,” and I still very much feel that way. Being retired, Saul and I have the luxury of staying home without worrying about losing a job, having our income curtailed, or, at this point, having to venture out into a potentially dangerous environment to gather supplies, food or otherwise. All our children have good jobs which enable them to work online, and they have been very conscientious and careful about exposing themselves. I really feel terrible for our granddaughters, who, while being extremely careful, are suffering from physical isolation from friends their age. As we have begun the school year, both Sami and Izzy are now living with us here in Florida and opted to take virtual classes, Sami at New College in Sarasota, and Izzy in a special high school program at Polk County College which will award her a 2-year Associates Degree when she has finished her two years of high school. Whether they will need or opt to take physical classes will have to be decided again in January, when a new semester begins. Yona opted to return to New Jersey with her parents at the end of this year’s Camp Bubbie and Saba, right after Sami’s birthday. As I have written before, Yona, while she enjoyed the very close months with her sisters, really enjoys being an “only” child. Camp Bubbie and Saba 2020 was as different from in previous years as most people’s lives are from their pasts in this “new normal” of 2020. Nevertheless, this family is nothing if not resourceful. I view this quality as our greatest strength. We had a great summer, even without Disney, Universal Studios, The Crayola  Experience, shopping, the beaches, myriad wonderful restaurant meals, and socializing with friends and family in the area.

I did a lot of cooking before the crew arrived in preparation, but I needn’t have bothered. The girls all enjoy cooking and baking as much as I and a lot of what I prepared for us is still in the freezer. The five of them and their dog, Inky, arrived at the beginning of June, having loaded their rented van with everything Izzy and Sami would need for their, at least, two years of living with us and Jessica followed behind in their car. Upon arrival, the van was immediately returned at Orlando Airport. Elaine, Alex’s mom, was put under quarantine by the kids for two weeks since she had ventured out to have her hair and nails done prior to their arrival. For those first two weeks, Jess stayed with us, sleeping on the sofa, while Alex and the dog stayed with his mother. During that time, Jess helped the girls rearrange and decorate their rooms to suit them. The results were pretty, interesting, and more livable and convenient for them to function in during these difficult times. They seem very comfortable with the results.

Saul and I have spent a lot of time gardening and caring for our new trees and plants. Unfortunately, despite my frequent warnings that he should wear gloves while gardening in Florida, he got a nasty sting that caused his hand to swell badly and required antibiotics and a few days of resting it with ice before it returned to normal. The fruit and flowers that surround us are a constant source of joy every morning when we open the curtains. Also a source of great joy are our pool and spa which are not only beautiful to look at, but very functional for relaxation as well. The visual stimuli around here are uplifting on even the bleakest days of rain, which are usually followed by magnificent rainbows and technicolor sunsets and sunrises. Even the birds, bunnies, and unusual insects are a source of amusement. My overwhelming reason for getting out of bed right now is putting up a Daily Love Letter from WWII. Each day I am communing with my 19-year-old mother and 26-year-old father as they endure the painful separations they experienced from 1941 until 1945. Given the hardships with which they were faced, Covid 19 seems like a piece of cake in comparison.

A really sad note that occurred in May was the sudden death of Saul’s cousin, Sylvia. She was the mother of the bride, Adi, whose wedding we attended in Israel back in October. Her family had taken her to the hospital for fluid retention, but she died suddenly from pneumonia the evening before she was due to return home. The only bright note was that we had a world-wide family Zoom session at the end of the shiva period. We were able to converse with relatives we hadn’t seen for many years, some of whom weren’t even sure how the others were related or who they were.

When Elaine was allowed out of quarantine, and the girls could finally embrace their dad, we had a socially-distanced Shabbat and invited our friends, Susan, Ted and Larry from the neighborhood. We set up separate tables on the lanai, but the weather was so uncomfortably hot that we decided to table Shabbat socializing until Florida winter arrives and we can sit outside without getting in the pool to cool off. That should probably be sometime in late October or November.

During the summer, Izzy and Yona sculpted and baked small decorative objects for their rooms. Izzy dyed her hair teal, but only half. Sami completed credits towards her degree in hospitality at Valencia College online. Sami indulged her formidable pasta making skills when she received her desired pasta sheeter and cutting attachments for our Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. This allows her to prepare the pasta single-handedly, without the necessity of another person to lay out the dough as it comes out of the machine. Both our original old shiny hand-cranked pasta makers were depositing flakes of chrome in the dough. Izzy baked a delectable olive bread and later on, we discovered that her pizza-making abilities are spot-on as well, not to mention her from-scratch pizza rolls augmented with her home-made tomato sauce and very authentic-tasting naan to accompany Sami’s amazing tofu curries. Yona’s specialties are cupcakes, cookies, and cinnamon rolls which we often distributed to neighbors and friends so that Saul and I, who should not be tempted in that department, could maintain our healthy vegan way of life. With the cooperative effort of the three girls, Saul and I enjoyed some amazing meals this past summer. They treated each other to elaborate breakfasts of omelets, taiyaki, pancakes, waffles and roasted, seasoned potatoes.

The Fourth of July celebration here in our neighborhood did not disappoint. We were able to pull up our pool furniture to our pool screen, which nicely protected us from the evening mosquitoes, and watch unbelievably elaborate fireworks set off by our neighbors on all sides for hours.

Not being able to visit the barber or hairdressers, Jess and Izzy gave pretty competent haircuts to Sami and Saul. Izzy, who had been practicing driving with Saul for a few weeks, was able to pass her driving test on the first time out, and can now legally drive alone in the car. Besides the blogging, organizing of old CD’s containing years-old photos and uploading them to Google photo, digital scanning of old photographs and slides as well as the thousands of pages of letters my family wrote during WWII, and just catching up with things on the “honey-do” list, Saul and I have not been bored in the six months we have been self-isolating. I never thought I would have enough time in my lifetime to ever read all those pages of letters, but I wish I had read them long ago because it would have given me such insight into my parents’ relationship and consequently a better understanding of our family dynamic all the years we were growing up. In whatever free moments we manage to put aside, we have been attending Shabbat religious services on Zoom every week, joining with others in the congregation to light Havadallah candles each week, taking Zoom classes, and schmoozing with others in Decaf, Davka and Dibbur sessions once a month. We even attended a book launching a few days ago by our former rabbi, Howard Avruhm Addison. We would never have been able to be present at an event taking place almost 2,000 miles away without the miracle of Zoom. Also on Zoom, Saul and Sami are tutoring students in Hebrew on Wednesday evenings, and teaching in the synagogue religious school on Sundays.

Alex had driven home with the dog after about three weeks in Florida. He returned again with the dog, who stayed with Elaine, a week before Sami’s 20th birthday at the beginning of August. We had an incredibly delicious Shabbat meal together to celebrate, for which Sami, as usual, made her own deliciously elaborate birthday cake. It was a three-layer sour cream pound cake. Each layer had a meringue circle on top, a ring of butter cream around the edge to corral a mango coulis topped with shaved toasted coconut, more butter cream to frost the top and sides, and a drippy glaze of more mango coulis. Sami loves mangoes! Since we are no longer buying annual passes to Disney World for the kids, we bought Sami a coveted Nintendo Switch for her birthday so that she could participate in gaming with her friends in college, her sisters, and one of her younger cousins who is feeling particularly isolated. After celebrating Sami’s birthday, Alex, Jess, Yona and Inky drove back to New Jersey where Yona can now have her life as an only child back, while she prepares to take virtual courses when school begins for her in September.

We are all trying very hard to cultivate those things that bring us joy so that we will not feel hemmed in or greatly limited by our new lifestyle during these very unsettling times. We are all trying to be very careful so as not to contract or carry the virus, but we find that beyond the limitations of not being able to socialize or entertain during social distancing in person, our life in Covid times has many advantages as well.

No comments: