Coming back from my two-mile walk in my backyard, not that my backyard is two miles long, it’s not, but I walk back and forth for two miles, I realized what a pitiful sight I am. If anyone were to see me in my sweatpants, T-shirt, no make-up – what for the birds? – they’d say I needed a respite in the local psyche ward. I have forgotten to dress normally, bathe daily, and wear something colorful. Is this what retirement looks like? No, this is what being cooped up at home without the possibility of parole looks like during the pandemic. When restrictions get lifted I will need training in how to be a human being again and a functioning member of society. I will have to wear a bra again! That thought revolts me. I will need to be pleasing, kind and thoughtful to others. I’ve had a vacation from that. And eight hours in an office again when I’ve enjoyed squirrels, birds and flowers as my office, I can’t bear the thought.
Not everything about the lockdown has been nasty as the media wants you to believe. It’s been peaceful. The air has never been fresher. The quiet of the streets allows me to hear the honking of overhead geese, the barking of dogs on a walk, the clamoring of the garbage truck on its pickup runs. We’re making more garbage than ever before. We’re buying and cooking and eating and throwing away. Just today I saw my neighbor throw out his prized flamingo.
Calvin says, “You’re nuts alright. Flamingo? That was a pink elephant.”
I’m learning to work online these days, and be proficient in video calls. All of a sudden I have to look good on camera. I need make-up, lipstick, good hair, and something colorful around my neck and shoulders. Much like news anchors, you never know what they’re really wearing underneath the desk. I could be wearing my pajama bottoms, the ones with the mermaids, and nobody would know. But they’d know because they’re doing the same.
Nobody has told the bees, the squirrels or the birds that all work must be conducted inside. They didn’t get the memo. Life goes on for them. The neighborhood cats keep coming by and checking who has left a scent. Not so with the dogs. They have been quarantined and I don’t even hear barking anymore. That’s because they’re wearing masks.
I used to smell garlic and curry in the neighborhood, but even that has gone. I don’t see my neighbors leave their houses and get into their cars. I wonder what they’re making for dinner. I suppose the freezer in the garage has been a go-to place for the past four weeks. It’s time for the frozen edamame and tamales to come out along with the ice cream and shredded cheese.
We just heard we might be in this until middle May. The date keeps getting pushed back almost daily. This is building character I tell myself. It’s okay if you’re an introvert. You can handle the quiet. It’s the extroverts I worry about. They’re talking to themselves in the mirror and to imaginary friends.
Calvin says, “I don’t like frozen kibble so don’t even think about it.”
I’ve been in lockdown since the end of March. Like most of us, it’s taken a bit of adjusting. My daughter came over to do laundry. She wore a mask and gloves the entire time and stayed in the garage. We talked in muffled sounds.
I’m getting to know my backyard quite well. That’s where I walk two miles a day. I look like a robot, back and forth, until whatever phone call I’m on is over. I’ve watched the maple tree sprout its tender leaves. Flowers are poking their heads up from the ground. Squirrels are snickering up and down the fence. My rose bushes are bursting out all over and the bees are deliriously happy.
Speaking of which, while I was doing my walk I suddenly heard a loud hum overhead. At first I thought it was my neighbor’s lawnmower. But when the sound came swirling around my face and almost into my ears I ran inside.
“Do I have any bees stuck to me?” I asked Alf.
He put down the paper and looked at me. “Do you mean the buzzing kind or something else?” Then he saw what was happening out the window. Hundreds of bees were swarming in circles in front of our eyes, taking up every inch of airspace, like a convention in the sky. We stood transfixed. Not one bee was bumping into another. They had their flight path well mapped out. The buzzing was almost deafening.
“There goes the neighborhood,” Alf said.
We continued with our projects and soon there was silence. It was as sudden as the humming. We looked out the window and the bees were gone. Not a one lingered on a flower or a tree.
“Where did they disappear to?” I asked.
“To the local pub for a drink,” Alf said.
The following day the same episode happened at the same time of the day. By then we had become pros. We left out some cut oranges on the picnic table in case they needed a snack. Instead, the squirrels pounced on the slices and flicked their tails in excitement.
Calvin says, “Thank God my doghouse is inside. They would have moved right in with all my smells.”
I hate it when a warehouse store moves its shelves around and I can’t find the items I typically buy. It’s torture. It adds extra minutes to my shopping. I walk my 10,000 steps just trying to find the peanut butter. They should pay me for confusing me and making me go around in circles.
Being the day before Valentine’s Day, vendors were parked at every aisle handing out chocolates, cheese, and ravioli bites. Perfect ingredients for your loved one. How come there’s never any samples of bagels, lox and cream cheese? Or champagne and lobster tails for that special someone? But there’s always the man with the high-powered blender ready to make you a green smoothie.
I’ve noticed the book aisle is now shoved by the back wall where you can’t find it. I guess books are not money makers even if you are James Patterson and Clive Custler.
The clerk at the check-out told me a story of a family with a six-year old daughter. It was the child’s birthday and nobody showed up to celebrate it. So the family scooped her up and brought her to the store for pizza and cake. I wondered how many miles they had to walk to find those items. They were moved to make way for buckets of roses and heart-shaped cookies.
Calvin says, “The stuff you fret over. What’s wrong with a bone and a snuggle?”
Have you noticed the crazy stuff that happens to people around the holidays? Why don’t these things happen other times of the year?
A friend called to tell me she ended up in the ER on Thanksgiving day, doubled over in pain and unable to breathe from an allergic reaction to eating a nut. She knew she was allergic, but she ate it anyway. Does insanity come over us this time of year?
A gregarious, fun-loving, life-of-the-party friend spent Thanksgiving alone. “That’s okay, I’ve had millions of Thanksgivings,” she said non-nonchalantly.
My neighbor’s youngest daughter chose to stay away from the family so she could finish her research paper for school. My neighbor was hurt and lamented the fact her entire family was not present around the table. These are adult children, with lives of their own.
The people I know with kids demand that their children show up for the holidays, no matter how old they are. I find that strange. They say they want their children to grow up, make a life for themselves and build careers, have children of their own, live happy lives. But then holiday time rolls around and the demand to appear over turkey or Christmas caroling becomes law. And the drama that ensues if the law isn’t obeyed is brutal. It takes a year to recover from it.
I think we make holiday time into more than what it should be – a reason to be with friends and family and be cozy with one another. It doesn’t have to be with every relative you have, or every one of your friends since kindergarten. Sometimes it’s with a friend who knows and understands you better than your sister or brother, or your distant relative thirteen times removed who is grateful you remembered her and she brings that joy to the party.
Calvin says, “Do what I do. Everyday is a holiday, a reason to suck on a bone, get your tummy rubbed, and snore under a fleece blanket.”
I stood on the platform before the sun came up, waiting for the train. I looked up and saw a V formation of six pelicans. They were way off course. They belonged near the ocean, not this far inland. I concluded their GPS got muddled and they ended up at the subway station instead. Maybe they were going to go home that way. Once in San Francisco the way to the ocean was much closer. They could hop on the cable car and be at the wharf in minutes to the delight of all the tourists.
They continued to make several loops around the station in silence. Pelicans don’t honk like geese. They’re the introverts of the sky.
I kept following them with my eyes, wondering where they would touch down. All the station had to offer was a large cement parking lot, and miles of train tracks with a dangerous third rail that could kill you. I had visions of charred pelican and burned feathers. Not a pretty sight. Landing on cement wouldn’t be much prettier either. That would be a rough landing with scraped feet.
I thought of calling the firefighters to come rescue them. To pull their ladders into the sky and bring each one down to safety. But that wouldn’t work. They’d think me a crazy woman. I don’t know why. They’ve rescued a few of my cats up a tree.
Then just before the train arrived I saw them change course, come in lower and disappear behind a line of trees to the quacking of ducks at a nearby pond. Those ducks gave them their landing coordinates and saved me from a morning of drama.
Calvin says, “You should have called. I would have positioned myself in the middle of the parking lot and howled them down.”
Thursday night is when all the things that go boo in the night come out. In my neighborhood, that means lots of kids in intergalactic costumes with their parents peering out from our bushes so as not to look like hovering parents, which they are of course, which is a good thing these days, and especially on Halloween night.
I lock Calvin up in his crate and away from the front door, otherwise he’d swoosh out and sniff the kids to death. He doesn’t like it one bit. He feels it’s his night too. But I can’t trust him to behave himself like a decent beagle that he sometimes can be, but not on this night.
Of all the things that spook me on this night are:
- why this country has embraced this “holiday” that isn’t a holiday
- resorting to this in order to get free candy
- skeletons sitting in the passenger areas at the airport
- substituting harvest festivals for Halloween in religious settings – what’s the difference? The candy is the same
- Alf retrieving his favorite candy and hiding it in a pumpkin jar
- Calvin howling his head off and making the kids think we’re killing him
Calvin says, “You are killing me with this lock-down, and you don’t even toss me a Snickers bar, my favorite.”