We are based in New York – both of us living within 17 miles of Manhattan, which everyone knows is the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States. At least it is currently.
We are on lockdown and staying as far away from each other as we can. If you knew our family, you would understand that this is actually super challenging. We’re the “celebrate every birthday with a get together” kind of people. The “come over for Sunday dinner” sort. And the “grandpa attends all sporting events and school plays” kind of crew.
So not being able to casually see each other whenever we want has been hard. Of course, this is a minor sacrifice to make compared to the soldiers on the front lines of this war – doctors, nurses, paramedics, police, fireman, and beyond (whom we are forever grateful for and indebted to.) But it nonetheless has forced us to find new ways to connect with each other and keep some sense of our traditions intact.
Katie and I both have families of five, so we spend our days homeschooling the kids, working, watching the news, avoiding watching the news, scurrying out to mail packages or get groceries quickly, Lysoling everything, keeping the kids busy in any way possible, going for a drive, cooking/cleaning/snacking, binge watching TV and taking family walks in the woods or around the neighborhood.
But with our larger family, we are we are always searching for ways to stay connected. Everyone talks on the phone daily in many different combinations (sister to sister, sister to brother, son to father etc). We also set up Zoom calls as a group to check in and have virtual happy hours. And we group text and FaceTime each other. Sometimes these conversations consist of jokes and memes, and other times they consist of trying to calm each other down amid true panic about the crisis. The kids make pictures for each other and for Grandpa and we snap photos and send them along. Just letting each other know that we’re in it together helps.
That holds us together for moving through a regular week, but it’s harder when we come up on things that are supposed to be special amid this lockdown time. For example, we always celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as a family by getting dressed up in our green, going to the NYC parade and having a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner (and a singalong party!) at a restaurant in Manhattan. This year, we still boasted our green but instead got together for a virtual toast. It was important to show the kids that even though we’re not physically together, our traditions can still hold up. We marked St. Patrick’s Day together … separately.
In the coming weeks we will have Easter, birthdays and other events that normally we would mark with a party or dinner or get together. We are making plans now about how to do those virtually or in some connected way, so the kids know that family traditions can keep going. We can still be together even though we’re apart.
And when we can return to physically being present with each other, we won’t have missed a beat.