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In This Place

Reflections on a Pandemic: Shelley Christiansen

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Shelley Christiansen and her mother

Over the past few weeks we reached out across our region to people from all walks of life. We asked them to share their thoughts as they navigate through the pandemic.

Here is one of the essays featured on our Voices of the Pandemic episode of The Point.

 

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I shared a home with a cat, once upon a time.  In the mornings, I fed the cat and left him to his morning bath as I rushed off to work.  After work, I came home, fed the cat again, fed myself.  Then we both curled up in cushy seats and barely budged for the rest of the evening. 

In time, I quit the 9-to-5 to become a stay-at-home free lancer.   And once I was at home with the cat nearly all the time, I realized:  The cat stayed curled up in his cushy seat – not just in the evening, but all the livelong day.  That was all he did!      

Today, the housecat is my mother.  I mean this with utmost respect.  We have lived together for three years now.  She is the senior-senior citizen to my junior-senior citizen.   In the mornings, she has breakfast and takes her bath around the time I used to head out the door.  Before pandemic snuck up on the world as we knew it.  I had the proverbial places to go, things to do and people to see.  I always reserved holes in my calendar for Mom -- to take her to chair yoga, or lunch at the senior center or some happening at the library.  Then I’d drop her back at home and head off to the races again.  In the evenings, we’d have dinner and sink into cushy chairs, watch TV and go to bed.         

That routine was so two months ago.  Abruptly, I am a stay-at-homer again.  I work “virtually,” as we say now.  I am upstairs; Mom is downstairs.  She is in her cushy seat – but not just in the evening anymore.  She is in it all the livelong day.  Just like my old cat. 

Unlike the cat, Mom is fixated on a screen.  The screen glows non-stop -- the Today Show, Rachel Ray, The View, The Talk, Divorce Court and what have you.  When I worked outside the house, I was conveniently deaf and blind to whatever Mom was doing – or not doing -- on the homefront.   But now?  There is no ignoring that Mom is but fourteen stair steps away, just sitting – one of the unhealthiest things a body can do, short of getting coughed on these days. 

My patience fell apart about a week into lockdown.  I figured I’d make lemonade out of this new lemon.  For her own good and for my own.  I was distracted from working mindfully anyway.  And lately, work had dwindled in the first place.   And what had I been doing too much of myself?  Yep, sitting – in front of a glowing screen. 

So:

I went out and scored a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle and a word game --  two age-old, mother-daughter pasttimes.  We had neglected both in recent years.     

I got us both into chair yoga online.  Yes, that means more sitting and glowing screens, but in a wholesome way.

For Easter, we dyed eggs and made an Easter basket for the first time in sixty years or so.

I took Mom along for the rides when I delivered meds to an elderly friend, and corned beef and cabbage to another.

I take her along for rides to the grocery store, too.  Because the views on the way, along State Beach, never get old.   When we’re lucky, we catch sight of a kite surfing ballet.           

Mom and I have called people we haven’t reached out to in ages.  We’ve even Zoomed some people.  Because life is not promised, as we’ve been reminded of late. 

We haven’t forsaken cushy seats and glowing screens altogether.  But we have gotten more into streaming, Mom amazed that we can watch whatever we want whenever we want to.

My favorite thing is our walks in the all outdoors.  Stretching limbs and lungs.  Soaking up Vitamin D.   We did this before the pandemic; now we do it more.  Mom hardly protests anymore if it’s chilly out.  She just tightens up the hood of her parka.   I dial back from my power-walk pace to Mom pace.  The better to take in the littlest leaf shoots and other small mercies of spring.  We pass the homes of neighbors – the home-schooling family, the Covid refugees from Boston, the snowbirds who are late to return from Florida this year.   And at last we reach Nantucket Sound, in its full glory, from Cape Cod to Cape Poge.  Mom is mainly into the cloud formations.  I’m more into the surf.  The ebb and flow.  The reassurance that the cosmos goes on.