• Jody Kussin

In These Times #37 - April 2020 People in the Neighborhood

These are the people in my neighborhood. So sang Sesame Street for many years.

Today, it’s a different list. It’s these are the ‘people in my COVID-19 neighborhood.’ Given how small our worlds are becoming, it’s good to know these folks, wave at them, and stay at list 6 feet removed. Hats off though, to them all. Thanks to our postal service workers, especially the ones who walk door to door delivering and carrying our mail. And thanks to our maintenance workers who are picking up trash and many ‘big item stacks’ as we go through our cupboards and garages and decide it’s time to ‘get rid of that couch already.’ Thanks also to our gardeners and those who are sweet enough to stop blowing the leaves when we walk by with our dogs. Thanks to all the various pizza people, and of course, to delivery folk everywhere - postmates/grubhub/Instacart/amazon/fedex/ups/ralphs/Costco/smartnfinal and so on. Thank you thank you to the new hunters and gatherers of our tribes.

Also, thanks to the neighborhood signs and posters saying ‘thanks!’ or ‘happy birthday Billy.’ Lots of sidewalk chalk art and some old fashion hopscotch. Some streets are participating in the hide a doll or bear in the window scavenger hunt game, so kids walking by can scout them out. Thanks neighbors.

That’s the outdoors for us these days. Little acts of kindness all around.

As for the indoors, I’m certain you are more responsible than I, and you do not constantly find yourself without a phone charger. This is a crazy stressor, given I basically do not go anywhere other than from the couch to the computer, the computer to the kitchen, repeat. I don’t know how I manage, but, despite there being at least four kinds of chargers (car, wall, computer, portable – all of which probably have actual names – ask your resident IT guy/spouse/roommate), I am always at a loss as to their locations. You would think, knowing how attached I am, of late, to a functioning phone/tablet/device, that this would be a non-issue, and yet, I find myself forgetting to re-charge, even when I know and can anticipate that I WANT and NEED to re-charge my batteries.

I don’t recall exactly what re-charged my battery years ago. I was working tons and raising three busy kids with a very busy husband. I was writing and teaching and planning. I think bubble baths were my guilty pleasure – 99cent store bubble bath, 15 minutes behind a locked door. We didn’t have cell phones or email, or any way people could reach us (other than the pounding on the door of three offspring!), and that bit of peace and quiet and solitude went a long way.

Fast forward 20+ years. Funny how life and time changes some things, and not others. I still enjoy a nice bubble bath, and I’m still getting my bubbles from the 99cent store (they deliver.) But – these days – the thing that never ever fails to charge my battery is time spent with my young adult three kids. It can be long periods of time, or short. It can be a quick snippet exchange on Facebook (although NOT on snap chat – snap chat goes too fast for my brain to process and the picture is gone before I figure out whatever it was I was supposed to be viewing and no dancing ticky tocking!). It can be a phone call or a text. Time with the kids. Doing nothing. Yup, funny things charge me up these days.

I know the millennial in my life are worried we are setting a new precedent. “Don’t get used to all of this checking in and talking.” says my youngest, busy finishing a degree in epidemiology at Hopkins. “When this is all over, we can go back to my flying below the radar.” Fair warning. Fair enough. And we can go back to phone calls without the visuals, although, I’m enjoying watching the eldest, in D.C., and his wife, bake, cook, and snuggle with their dogs. My guilty pleasure, it turns out, really is the increased contact. My daughter and her lovely boyfriend stay in close contact, observing physical distancing and socially connecting. My niece and nephews call or text. They all indulge their aunt, for which I am grateful. And I do my best to be in touch with my aging relatives as well, as they impressively master the world of virtual chatting.

I frequently cannot find my chargers. It is true. But on a plus side, my battery is being re-charged now more than ever. I’m thinking we are not ‘going back.’ We are going forward, moving toward health and science lighting the way toward a future that is not as confusing as the present. Along the path, I am grateful to be part of a community of communicators. What do we have? We have one another.

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