He Said/She Said: The Lockdown Chronicles

We wrote our first He Said/She Said series of posts in 2014 about the life we had lived in Ecuador, every experience wildly different depending on who was telling the story. Lockdown for COVID-19 has been no different.

He Said: Our life, probably like yours, was ambivalent to anything outside of our daily routine. We took for granted that although the world didn’t revolve around us, we lived life on our terms. Shopped when we wanted. Traveled when we wanted. Entertained as we pleased and went out for dinner on date night. We also watched the news from around the world in January and February about the developing concerns of a “pandemic” on the horizon. We were especially concerned about our youngest son and his wife on a world tour sabbatical dodging lockdowns, and our second oldest boy whose wife was starting their first pregnancy.

Most of you also know that we live in a relatively isolated area in the Smoky Mountains. There’s not much manufacturing and no processing plants. Our local economy is driven by farming and tourism. So my concerns were pretty mild on the prospects of a pandemic actually reaching us.

Marci and I had a routine to go out for lunch each day at our local grocery store. It may sound daffy to go to the grocery store for lunch, but literally it was the best delicatessen west of NY city and the dining room had views of the mountains to die for. Even with this perceived sense of security, we began taking alcohol wipes to our counter and wiped everything down around us. There was no such thing as social distancing at that point, however, and there were only a few workers that even attempted some new level of diligence.

Sometime in early March, Marci convinced me that eating lunch at home was necessary. A few days later I drove past the grocery store, and I remember pining for that lunchtime treat.

Our intuitive forethought should have prepared us for the stay-at-home order that was issued in our State on March 30th. But I’m not sure anything could prepare for what was to come.

The view from the grocery store lunch counter.

She Said: After a week or two of reading about this odd virus attacking China, I announced that we should begin preparations for something bad. By the end of February we had quietly put together a two week supply of extra food and incidentals. My husband would normally accuse me of over-reacting, but this time he used this newfound panic to justify buying the deep freezer he had always wanted. He re-arranged the storage shed, had it outfitted with an electrical outlet, and stocked this little freezer to the brim with grocery store treasures. One of his favorite chores is grocery shopping, and for those few days he was really in his element.

A few weeks later we had put ourselves into an indefinite quarantine from the outside world. This new world would turn out to be the happiest place I’ve ever lived.

From my garden I can hear the train’s whistle as it chugs along on the other side of the lake. We can hear the waterfall in the native garden next door from the front porch. The clock by the chapel down the street chimes the hour of the day, and then the bells play a traditional gospel song. Sometimes that song sticks in my head for hours.

The cross that stands guard over our neighborhood remains lit 24 hours a day through lockdown. It’s beautiful and sometimes eerie, and I can’t help but wonder if the lights will ever turn off again.

Someone started a yell at 7pm for the healthcare workers that’s caught on all around, so that you hear waves of the yell every night as it creeps through the neighborhood. It’s a really sweet place to be.

Every day there’s something I can’t wait to take care of in the garden while he finds something every day he can’t wait to read. When he gets bored with reading he goes for a ride in his convertible on the Blue Ridge Parkway, or through our little downtown to see if anything’s changed. I can’t think of a day that I’ve been bored.

There’s no schedule, which took some getting used to at first, but whatever didn’t get done today – well, there would always be tomorrow. I have been wholly, mindlessly content with the simple business of being alive.

We were having breakfast on a Monday morning when I heard the familiar sound of a tree falling. POP, Swish, BOOM. The house didn’t move, so we casually walked outside to locate the culprit. A tree had fallen from the native garden next door, and we could not have been a millimeter closer to an absolute wipe-out.

Mr. Boggs supervised from the front porch.

It must have been a hundred year old tree, and it took three smaller trees down with it. One of the trees lost was a Carolina Silverbell that had branched out across the driveway this year with its delicate white flowers suspended in mid air.

The neighborhood maintenance crew called in reinforcements and five of us worked all day to clear the trees from the driveway. One guy cut them into pieces small enough to carry, and the rest of us stacked them across the street. It went on, and on, and on. We fell into bed that night physically and mentally exhausted. It was so nearly a catastrophe, and it left us unnerved.

The stump and part of the trunk were left in the garden.

Three days later, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with a fever, chills so bad my teeth chattered, and severe nausea. It was the moment I had dreaded.

to be continued. . .