I’ve been preparing for emergency situations all my life. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been dreaming of Nazis storming my house (I had my escape route planned and practiced over the balcony). I grew up with stories of my grandparents leaving thousands of years of their history and culture, not to mention frozen bank accounts in Baghdad, with only one suitcase between their family of seven, to live in muddy tent camps in Israel. I grew up with Holocaust survivors at our Shabbat table who told stories of their worlds literally being smoked up through chimneys with only the memory of their mother’s kneidlach soup keeping them alive. So sitting here typing comfortably on my bed, with a cup of Nespresso (I am yet to develop the talent of making barista coffee at home) doesn’t feel like my worst-case nightmare scenario. My older boys have spent the day on online school classes, the younger ones reading books, playing soccer in the park, and yes fighting of course. At lunch as I served my brood toasted cheese sandwiches and stirred my Jerusalem artichoke and mushroom soup I felt a huge sense of gratitude. If this is bad, compared to the ordeals my grandparents went through it’s not too bad (yet).
As Israel locks down I’m feeling optimistic, with a dash of panic at the unknown for sure, but I don’t feel we have to flood the supermarkets. I refuse to stand in long, snaking lines, the germs alone make me shudder, let alone my pride. We don’t have to put our kids out to pasture to go wild or zombies on screens (as tempting as it is). Sure I miss my schedule, my coffeeshop rituals, my friends. But I know I’ve got it easy.
I feel really bad for those who have lost their jobs. Those who are sitting in empty shiva houses. A friend of mine is sitting for his mother who was flown in from Chicago and buried on Friday in Jerusalem, without her husband (a Holocaust survivor who suffered through several concentration camps) and her daughter being able to fly in and attend due to quarantine restrictions. Wedding parties are canceled as more than ten people aren’t allowed to congregate. A quiet wedding of a young couple will take place this week on Hizkiyahu Hamelech with just the immediate family present. (As of drafting this the wedding took place with guest standing on balconies, keeping to the ten congregation rule technically.)
The upside, as a coffee shop friend pointed out, is that we are returning to the old fashioned values of community and family. The downside is that the cracks in our lives begin to show. Are we happy being stuck at home with our family – hopefully, yes – maybe not – and if not, it’s time to make active choices how we connect to those we love or are meant to love. This is the perfect time for therapists to open hotlines with good marital, parental and relationship advice.
I’ve already had a good long chat with my son’s play therapist and we discussed how my 7-year-old son was pretty chilled about the corona. I happily reported he had the idea to write additional Mr. Men books (remember those), which he illustrated. They were stories about Mr. Dangerous and Mr. Bully. Oops, perhaps not so chilled after all. As confirmed today at the local bakery when he dragged me out as soon as friends entered, crying out, “Corona Mom, Corona.” He knows the rules and he’s scared.
I think we’re all under stress, and I think it’s going to get more stressful before it gets better. A complete lockdown is inevitable, where all of Jerusalem and Israel are locked in their houses, only able to leave for necessary errands. In preparation I’ve been walking for hours each day, enjoying my freedom before we are caged. I just have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t as bad a situation as my grandparents’ endured. My boys are loving not being at school. I haven’t seen my sixteen-year-old in such a good mood for ages. We have to look at the positive. When I say this my good friend tells me that I live in Disneyland and it’s now shut. I think it’s okay to live in Disneyland even if it’s shut (although apparently Disneyworld isn’t) whatever it takes to cope with a smile works for me.
Here’s what’s keeping me sane in our lockdown coronavirus holidays:
- Coffee and chocolate takeaway at my local coffee shop. (Soon to be locked down.)
- Walking ALOT (Ditto impending lockdown – although I think we will be allowed short walks.)
- Cooking – Feeding a brood of boys keeps me and them busy. Today we made pizza with bought pizza dough – an easy, fun activity.
- Yoga – there are many online classes. I have my own practice that I do. Moving, moving, moving always lifts my mood. I am yet to try a family hour of yoga. I may be laughed off my mat.
- Music – Definitely turning up the volume lifts spirits. With Spotify, you can have a family karaoke session. This is the time to have fun and connect as never before (okay, okay I’ll add it, and fight like never before.)
- Yesteryear Activities – We forget how fun a homemade tent from sheets is for kids. Or playing charades. Or making homemade bubbles and playdough. This works for older kids too. I love it when my kids are off their screens and creating, it’s such fun when you get to be a kid with your kids. These are my plans for the rainy days predicted for Jerusalem this week.
- Disappearing – Into a book, Netflix, a walk (if not locked down). I think our main duty as parents is to stay as sane as we can so we keep our houseboat afloat. Sometimes that means, as we all know, parking the kids on their electronics and disappearing so that we can refuel and return, and that’s more than okay.
And if all else fails – It cheers me to look at my Purim photos and remember what it was like last week, before the government lockdown laws, which I think they delayed so that we could enjoy this: