For someone with very few places to go and fewer things on my to-do list than ever before in adulthood—it sure has been difficult to find time to write an article. It doesn’t make sense to me—we have literally been on lockdown. My children being home all day, every day surely factors into this but they do go to bed before me. I think it’s more that my brain is fried from constant mom-scanning.
I can barely answer a question from one of them before another one hollers from another room or a fight breaks out over the remote or the front door slams shut behind the one that I needed to tell something to before she disappears on her bike for an hour.
Before school was out, we had Zoom meetings with their classes, videos from their teachers to watch, online assignments to complete, three-year-olds to keep busy while big sisters did school. When they are all occupied then I probably need to fold laundry before there’s a clothes-slide on the couch that pins my toddler to the ground, putting him at risk of suffocation. Or I should sweep up the dried grass that’s accumulated at the back door before it gets tracked all the way through the house.
There’s always something that needs doing or feels like it needs doing—I’m still not very good at discerning the difference. Which is probably why my brain is too fried to follow one thought far enough down the road to write a whole article. Instead, I give you: Your Brain on Quarantine. Or, I guess it’s my brain—hopefully yours is faring better. So, My Brain on Quarantine: several thoughts, briefly examined.
1. I’m not ashamed to say that quarantine has turned me into the kind of person who yells at cars to slow down, going so far as pumping my hands in a ‘slow down’ motion at them sometimes. I first began hollering at speeders when a bridge closure detoured cars down my street and I watched a few catch air on the potholes in front of my driveway. The increased number of kids out riding bikes all day long during the quarantine solidified my status as ‘that mom.’ I even flirted with posting about especially dangerous drivers on the neighborhood association app, Nextdoor, but when some of the commenters resembled an angry mob with boiling tar and feathers, I deleted my post and went back to ‘crazy lady yelling at cars’ level status.
2. On the other hand, Nextdoor was 100% responsible for returning Wanda, the wandering cat to us. Wanda will go missing for a day or two regularly, but this time she stayed gone 10 days. My childhood dog, Cotton, had a love of following my family wherever we went in the car and we often had to pull over and let her in the car with us on Old Canton Road. Similarly, Wanda follows us when we go walking or jogging. The problem is that Wanda doesn’t actually like to go running. She will race along behind you, periodically meowing at you to slow down and sometimes she will just disappear mid-run and show up at home later. This time she followed my husband and daughter across the neighborhood then took her own route into the loving arms of another family. Wanda hung around,—they said she really loved walking their roof—their home so much for about a week that they were about to take her to the vet to have her checked out so they could take her in. They checked Nextdoor and saw my post about my missing cat and gave me a call.
Once I got to their house, it took us a few minutes of calling her before she appeared. When she saw me, she literally turned tail and headed back towards the backyard. I figured it was hearing my car running in the driveway that spooked her since she hates car rides; but she was also meowing and going so far as to try and get down. I thanked the family and promised them she really was mine and we really don’t abuse her.
Wanda, the traitor, was determined to make a liar out of me and tried to make her escape over my shoulder one last time as I got to my car. I got her in there and she stalked the dashboard, basically yelling at me, the whole way home.
Wanda and I don’t have the kind of relationship some of my friends have with their cats—one named Margot comes to mind—but I thought we understood each other. I wouldn’t yell at her about the dead shrews she leaves on the porch or the baby snakes she toys with in the bushes and she would—well, I didn’t really expect that much out of her, which would make me the ideal owner to most cats, but at least don’t make me look bad.
It’s been a few nights now and she hasn’t fled back to her ‘other family’ so I guess she’s decided we’re okay, for now.
3. The caterpillars we bought online might have a worse opinion of our caretaking skills than even Wanda. You can order caterpillars and a butterfly habitat online with dummy-proof steps for watching them turn into butterflies. We have done this three times. I extolled the virtues of it to a friend at the beginning of quarantine, promising her that ‘you can’t screw it up.’ It’s been an easy, enjoyable experience every time—I’m a home-grown butterfly pro! My friend Leah did the same with her kids and when they recently released them on a particularly cool day, I warned her that you’re supposed to make sure it’s not too cold or the butterflies may not make it. It is unsurprising that the next day I found one of our butterflies on its back, wings glued to the sticky floor of the habitat, legs flailing.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. My husband was trying to talk to me about something but I couldn’t listen to him or focus on anything else but trying to save this poor butterfly. I managed to peel it off the habitat floor without ripping a wing. I talked to it while I tried to clean the sticky juice, from the sliced fruit I know how to expertly feed them, off its wings without dropping it down the sink drain.
I got the wings clean enough to stop sticking together, but they didn’t look good. I pushed the date of their release back a few days to give it time to heal and it did fly away upon release—but it didn’t fly far. Or well. I had to distract my kids from seeing the one still on a bush by the patio so they would leave it alone. For the record, Leah checked the instructions and the temp that day was well above the recommended level. I mean—it’s like I was asking for it, right? I named him Stucky in my mind.
4. I know this may sound like crazy talk—but hear me out. What would happen if we sewed the removable cups into sports bras, so they weren’t removable—or obnoxious—anymore? I spend a lot of time in athleisure wear, a lot. I don’t actually participate in athletics that much, but I am a big supporter of the stretchy clothing—and I do run every day. Like the flight of Stucky the Butterfly, I don’t run well or far and it’s not pretty, but I do run.
When you remove the removable cups from a sports bra, you change the size of the sports bra. You change how well it fits and does its job. If you don’t put them back in—it doesn’t fit as well. If you do put them back in—you probably cuss a little bit. It’s a huge pain in the neck and I am not yet convinced they aren’t a tool of the patriarchy intended to take up more time in women’s days so we don’t have quite enough time to take over the world.
So, tell me, why can’t we sew them in? Would nations fall? Would there be anarchy in the streets? We are in the midst of a global pandemic. If ever there was a time to pull off this kind of rebellion—it’s now. We should act now. And by ‘we’ I mean somebody with a sewing machine and the skills to do so, for me. Report back.
5. I have been exchanging letters with a few friends from church and it has made this lockdown feel a little bit like grown-up camp. Like a kid looking forward to mail call at summer camp, I check the mailbox more often. The couple of masked-up trips I’ve taken to Walgreens have included looking for good cards to have on hand for future notes. I’ve read and reread these notes, some of which were replies to my notes and some were unexpected treasures—all were spirit-lifting and cup-filling and saved in a special box.
A couple of my letter-writing buddies have handwriting that looks like beautiful art; some write large and clear as if they are trying to save the recipient the trouble of finding their reading glasses. Texts and emails and Facetime are great ways we can feel more together or efficiently let someone know we are thinking about them.
But there is something about the ritual of putting a pen to paper—or funny card—and using a stamp that feels like a spiritual practice that goes both ways. It is really hard to feel snarky or irritated or sorry for yourself when you put something in the mailbox for someone that you know will, at the very least, make them smile.
Elizabeth Quinn makes her home in Northeast Jackson with her husband Percy and four children.