Sandwich Sheltering: Between the Employed and the Unemployed, April 12, 2020

My desk sits facing east, an antique cupboard forming a barrier to the open adjoining dining room, a wall of windows to my right, looking southward over the water toward the orange groves that crown the hill above Lake Reedy in Frostproof, Florida. Behind me, and tucked into the office nook, my husband works at his sit-or-stand desk, four monitors stacked before him, headphone perched atop his forehead or strung around his neck, our world’s essential listen-or-speak apparatus. If he leans to his left, he too has a long lake view.

Our son sits on the other side of the cupboard, hunched and intent before a single, massive screen, the super-sized gaming computer at his feet, and, occasionally, a bird-cage or two by his side. When the birds call too loudly for his attention, he appeases them by wheeling them into our shared office, their chirps and chitters soon modulated by the tap-tap of fingers on keyboards. He quit his job in December to return to school, joining us here when everything shut down. Thankfully, his program restarted two weeks ago in an online delivery format.

Occasionally, my husband quietly announces, “I’m starting a conference call in five minutes.” Any urge to converse thwarted, a perfect time to get up and move.

I often begin my days pre-dawn, enjoying quiet solitude. Ironic, because there are three of us in this house, sheltering alone, our interaction buffered by technology. We spend hours so, cubicles of our isolation.

We gather for meals. Mostly, I cook. They eat.

This new reality sounds bleak, but it is not. We share joys: a message from a workmate about her son’s recovery from a long illness, news that two small local companies partner to make hand sanitizer, yet another funny bird meme. We debate over Pandora channels to broadcast, review the everlasting “to-do” list of household projects, discuss articles to read or movies to watch that evening. We are blessed with a full pantry and freezer when many are not. And we have space–a large yard in which to safely wander, separate rooms in which we can shelter alone, and birds to watch inside and out. Our cat alternates from lurking beneath the cages and stalking lizards on the screened porch outside.

We will be delivering devilled eggs and plates of Easter lunch to neighbors later today (with safety precautions in place). Maybe I’ll get back to mask-making after lunch, so many people still need them.

Joyfully, our daughter and her fiancé arrive tomorrow. Both unemployed service industry workers, after sheltering three weeks at home in Charlotte, NC, they determined it is safe to venture down to visit us. We hope they can make the trip with only one stop to gas up the car. We will tuck-in with a full house, the employed, the unemployed, the student, the cat, and the birds.

There will be enough people to play Mölkky in the carport, new competition for Mexican Train and Travel Rummy, new hands to knead bread, or mix cocktails. And indeed, more laughter.

Happy Passover. Happy Easter. Shelter safely. Call us if you need anything.

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