Every cloud has a silver lining. Corny and a cliché but true. We’ve long tried to look on the bright side when dark tidings hover like a cursor on a computer screen we haven’t clicked on.
We’ve had lots of practice climbing out of miserable places such as finding ourselves suddenly single after years of happy marital bliss. We learned to live alone which, at first, was alarming when late at night we’d walk into a dark house alone or attend an event with no one on our arm. Singleness, ironically, turned out to be OK. It offered us the chance to eat what and when we felt like it, stay up late to finish watching a movie or Netflix series and not feel compelled to pick up our clothes strewn all over our bedrooms because we could.
Since we have so much time home alone right now, we’ve had to make ourselves slow down and try to focus on a slew of opportunities that we might have ignored in the past. For that we’re thankful. Here’s our “silver linings’ coronavirus playbook” in no particular order.
- Barbara’s two grandsons have been best buds since No. 2 arrived three years ago. They share a room and the younger one has always looked up to his big brother, 6. But now with so much time together, they depend on each other more for doing their schoolwork together—OK, the younger one pretends he’s reading and writing, building truck and car stations from Legos and other types of blocks, watching Friday night movies, a tradition their parents started, roughhousing, and jumping and running around on their roof deck for the day’s “recess.” How lucky they are to have each other.
- Having a visiting dinner chef. Barbara’s beau who lives nearby, comes bearing dinner and wine each evening. He’s perfected his eggplant parmesan, Bolognese sauce, salads with colorful veggies and healthy leaves, and helped her finetune salmon burgers and meatballs. Margaret’s son also has this perk but less often. She’s shown up at his building with matzoh ball soup, chicken piccata, different versions of baked fresh fish such as salmon as well as cookies and brownies. And we have time to set a prettier table with the good china, silver and crystal when we’re bored with the everyday stuff. Because everyone is cooking and used to staying home, we expect to see the wonderful return of dinner parties.
- Thank goodness for so many programs on TV. Barbara has watched reruns of “Gilmore Girls” for its lightness and mother-daughter bond, finished “Delicious,” “The Wonderful Mrs. Maisel” and “Enlightened” and started “Belgravia.” Who would have thought that James Fellowes could hit it out of the park again after “Downton Abbey?” She decided not to continue with “Ozark” because she felt it was too dark and violent for this very troubling time. Margaret is into “The Crown” and always turns to her favorite old movies on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
- We still have our senses of humor and both can laugh and love “Randy Rainbow” when he sings his wonderful renditions touting everyone’s favorite governor, Andrew, or making fun of someone suggesting Clorox is the drink of choice to lower temperatures and other ills and chills.
- Zooming in with family has become a delight when our grown kids once used to brush us off and were too busy to schmooze. They want to know we’re OK by seeing and hearing us. We’ve also had a chance to gather in schmooze groups with childhood, camp, work and other groups of friends.
- Learning a new skill. Both of us have discovered the joys rather than the rigors of technology. Margaret has mastered setting up a Zoom meeting, which she organized for almost all the girls, now women, who were in her elementary school class. Zoom allows them to be together from all parts of the country on screen. Sounds Hollywoodish, doesn’t it? We hardly look like movie stars right now with our gray roots and scraggly hair dos.
- Mastering cleaning. We’ve learned or relearned how to vacuum, clean a toilet, bathtub, floor, wall tile (save that old toothbrush) properly, use a mop and dust cloth. Our mothers would be so proud of us, and we’re proud of ourselves, too. Margaret sets aside the weekends to clean. Saturday it’s laundry and changing sheets. Sundays are for the thorough cleaning—scrubbing every inch of the bathroom, wiping doorknobs and light plates, polishing wood furniture, vacuuming and mopping floors. She’s inspired Barbara to stop clicking away on her computer and start dusting.
- We knew how to do this stay-at-home routine well after decades of working from home. But now with no place to go, we’re learning how to carry on by perfecting the work-life balance better with breaks for some exercise, baking, playing operas or 50s music in the background and even singing to ourselves and re-reading some classic literature such as Dickens, Austin and Mark Twain.
- Although one day runs into the next, it’s somewhat of a relief from stress not having to jump on the subway or bus or into our cars to get to a meeting or class on time. It’s so easy with the click of a computer switch. Presto, our doctor is in our homes on screen. And since we are homebound, we are worry free from whether we’ve missed a lunch date, doctor’s appointment or physical therapy session. It’s a pleasure to think, Oh, well, that appointment can wait; tomorrow’s just another day like yesterday or tomorrow.
- We have saved oodles of money on haircuts and colorings, pedicures, facials, gasoline, heating oil, taxis and Ubers, restaurant meals out, impulsive shopping purchases in stores including the grocery aisles and some trips. Yes, we may be having food delivered and tipping more generously but at the end of a day, the savings add up.
- We may complain about FB at other times but the groups that have emerged have been terrific and bonded us worldwide, whether it’s the “Kitchen Quarantine” group that has inspired us and shown so many versions of banana bread, chicken pot pie and lemon bars or the “View from my Room” group that showcases fabulous scenes from homes worldwide and makes us want to travel again—India! Hawaii! Berlin! Paris! Venice! Who knew we had expanded our friend quotient exponentially?
- And for those isolating with multigenerations, how much fun is it to pull everyone away from their own screen to congregate in one place and play a family board game or assemble a jigsaw puzzle? It’s also a good time if you have teenagers or even little kids, to learn how to play some of their computer games and feel pride when you beat them occasionally.
- It’s also a good time to catch up on some tasks that heretofore we’ve avoided such as writing letters; yes, snail mail, to certain people or doing a special craft project such as refinishing furniture. Perhaps, you have a sewing machine. Now’s the time to haul it out of the closet, beef up your sewing chops and make masks for the public. You can do so either as a fund-raiser for those suffering during the virus or simply donate them to friends, family, local businesses and any folks who ask.
Huge gratitude. We’ve never been so excited about the food deliveries that arrive, whether it’s our groceries with all the items on the list filled (oh, no, they must have been out of shredded wheat, tomatoes or Brussels sprouts), or a farm box packed with locally grown veggies, fresh fruit, jam, chutney, smoked salmon, bread and bagels and some exotic cheeses. We wait like children to unwrap the goodies, after thoroughly cleaning the outside of the bags and boxes.
We’re all in this together. So, stop sulking and search for the silver lining, a phrase mostly likely traced to John Milton’s “Comus” (1634). We know because we had time to google it.
The phrase goes like this:
Was I deceiv'd, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
A SHOUT OUT! Another silver lining if you still have a mother alive--as Barbara does--or are a mother. Happy Mother's Day. It's one we'll never forget in this extraordinary time. Be safe, happy and healthy.