SHELTERING IN PLACE: A FAMILY DRAMA (This essay originally posted on the website for WHYY in Philadelphia as “Snow Days.” Just substitute “shelter-in-place” for winter storm warnings and snow days, and you have the same idea.)
The Day Before – Hello. This is The School calling to inform you that, due to the upcoming winter storm warning, school will not be in session tomorrow. Please do not drop your child off at school “accidentally,” on your way to your Pilates class, and then claim later that you never got this call. You know who you are. And so do we. This message will now repeat.
Day One a.m. – What a rare treat to have the little darlings home for a day. I will use this unexpected gift of time and make it a special day. Outside the weather may be frightful, but our day will be quite delightful. First, I’ll make everyone heart-shaped pancakes, then we’ll snuggle up and watch a family movie. Or two movies – after all, we have all day! We can bake cookies later, then maybe a few games of Monopoly. Just some good old-fashioned family time.
Day One p.m. – The school called again with one of those damn robo-calls. Blah, blah, blah winter storm. I mean, when I was a kid we didn’t have “snow days.” And that was before global warming, when we used to have real snow. Hubbie was telling the kids the story of how he used to deliver newspapers on his bike in snowstorms worse than this. Then he got all grumpy because they walked out of the room during the part where he had to dig in the snow when he dropped his dime tip from Mrs. Gianetti.
Day Two – Slightly hung over. I didn’t think I drank that much, but the recycle bin doesn’t lie. The day I start hiding bottles is the day I will admit I have a problem. But I know I don’t, so what’s the big deal. Hubbie is home today also, because no one can get anywhere. I can’t think of the last time we were all together with no chance for escape! We have decided today will be “Puzzle Day.” That is because no one will play Monopoly again with H. I didn’t know this when I married him, but he has an irritating tendency to gloat when he has one over on you. He actually cackled with glee when he bankrupted sweet little J. She cried and asked, “Why is Daddy being so mean?” I said I didn’t know.
Day Three – When the school message came in again last night I wanted to take the phone and smash it to a pulp. No wonder our kids are lagging behind third world countries in education. Today I will insist on everyone (including H) leaving the house to get some fresh air. I don’t care if it is a wind chill of ten below. Maybe they can build a snow house and all go live there. Just kidding. Not really. Only eleven hours until cocktail hour. I will not lessen my personal standards just because the city is in crisis. Things could be a lot worse. I just saw a news report of a couple stranded in a Best Western with no heat or food. Uncharitably, I thought to myself, at least they’re not with H!
Day Four – Saturday, and the sun is finally out. Unfortunately, the snow is now blowing sideways, and due to drifting, no one can get anywhere. I told H that maybe he could get his trusty bike out and cycle on down to Whole Foods, just like when he had his paper route. Luckily I bought the 1.75 liter size of Bombay Sapphire the day before the storm hit. A stroke of brilliance, if I do say so. Gotta go – I’m the Bingo caller for the family Bingo tournament, and quite possibly the only person in this family who doesn’t cheat.
Day Five – I never realized it before, but in certain unfortunate ways, my children seem to have inherited many of H’s family’s habits and personality quirks. Nose-picking, slack-jawed staring off into space when being asked to help with chores, the aforementioned cheating (even at Candy Land, for Christ’s sake), nervous throat clearing, and an inability to tell when they’ve worn an article of clothing too many days in a row without putting it in the dirty laundry. I really don’t know how much longer I can take it. I had to stay on the Elliptical from noon until six o’clock just to keep myself away from the liquor cabinet.
Day Six – Just saw a news report that nine months from now there will be a big blip in the population with a whole lot of “blizzard babies” being born. I glowered at H as he sat playing video poker in his ratty bathrobe. The gin is gone. Don’t know if I can go on much longer.
Day Seven – Yippee! Everyone back to school and work today. Little J asked why Mommy was so happy, and I said because I love you and your brother and Daddy so much. So, so much.