A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lynn James: A long, isolated month of ‘firsts,’ thanks to pandemic, stay-at-homing, too much thinking


When we started this new decade, I envisioned the year 2020 as an exciting one. Did you? Little did we know how memorable this year will be for all the wrong reasons for the rest of our lives. The first quarter flew by with its normal ups and downs, some good times and some bad times. Then April came and went as time seemed to stand still with more bad than good for most of us.

As the month of April wrapped up, I couldn’t decide what to think of it. Where did the month go? What did I do? It all seems like a blur. Did I accomplish anything worthwhile or significant? I hope so. I hope we all did. I certainly experienced a great number of new things. Some I want to remember; some I don’t. 

SOME NEW FIRSTS

This April was the first time I was afraid to open a package I ordered from amazon. “Which state did the package ship from?” I wondered. I never checked before. New Jersey? Las Vegas? Both are hot spots for the virus. I let those packages sit over in the corner of my living room for a week before I opened them so any possible virus germs would die. Takes the fun out of opening the package when it arrives and discovering what I bought. (I don’t always remember.)

Those Amazon packages

This was also the first time I had to wait over a month for an Amazon delivery (I’m not a prime member). They weren’t essential items, so I understand the delay. But it’s not as much fun to shop online anymore. On the positive side, I’ve saved quite a bit of money because of the delays.

First time I took something other than cookies and brownies to my local fire department. I delivered an unopened package of 12 nitrile gloves. Not much, but it’s what I can offer. No hug from a firefighter this time either – for their safety and mine. Those hugs are gone for quite a while, but not my well wishes for them.

First time I saw a traffic jam on the Dixie Hwy during the isolation order. Haven’t seen a traffic jam since I’ve driven to work in the busy morning rush hour traffic back in February when schools were in session. The traffic jam was on a Sunday afternoon caused by a drive-thru church service. Amen!

First time I ever saw Saturday Night Live At Home episodes – ones not performed or filmed in their NBC studio. The first At Home episode was a nice try, while the second one was a hit! Good chance to laugh at some of what’s going on and forget the other parts of these strange times. Even the re-run of an early March show hosted by Daniel Craig, which poked fun at the virus, was fun to watch in an odd way. The social distancing and no-contact rules which are now our daily reality were cleverly portrayed. Debbie Downer’s prediction of a worldwide pandemic was ominous. Back then, no one believed or wanted to believe the virus invasion would become so bad in NYC and spread so wide throughout the U.S.

First time I dreamed about the virus and the U.S. president in the same night. In my dream, I was sewing a hand-made cotton face mask and could see each stitch I made in detail. When I turned to my right, there was Pres. Trump giving me his nod of approval. Good dream? Bad dream? Either way, that’s one sign I was watching too much COVID-19 coverage. And no, I don’t sew – only in my dreams.

OTHER FACE MASKS FIRSTS

I’m not a medical professional or first responder, so my interaction with face masks had been limited to times I’ve been in a hospital as either a patient or visitor. But I saw an N95 mask hanging from someone’s rearview mirror early in April. Maybe I’ve driven past this before when I didn’t know the significance of it. He must be a medical professional or a first responder. Either way, he’s a front line hero and looks like he is ready to help when needed.

I received my own cotton face mask complete with a filter pocket as a gift from a friend. Homemade with hope and my health in mind. It is now hanging from my rearview mirror as a reminder to wear it when I go into stores. Anymore, if I forget to wear it, I feel naked. The mask also reminds me of what our front line heroes are facing and sacrificing during this time.

Face masks

I wish I was talented enough to make a cloth face mask myself, but alas, I don’t sew. However, I had to get my hands on a few more – all different colors and designs. Thanks for keeping me stylish, Theresa’s Alterations! And thanks for donating a face mask to first responders, healthcare workers, or a senior facility for each one purchased. 

The best I could make on my own was a disposable one with blue shop paper towels. No needle or thread required. All you need besides the blue shop towel is a paperclip, stapler, and rubberbands. It was easy! Check out the youtube video for yourself. I’ve loaded up on those blue paper towels in case there is a run on that item (remember the toilet paper shortage.) I think I’ll try making a mask with a bandana and rubberbands next. Also no sewing involved; also on youtube. 

I guess it’s because of the new reality we are living in today, but this was the first time I walked into a bank with a face mask on, and no one seemed alarmed. In fact, they even thanked me for wearing it. Is this going to be a problem when bank lobbies are open to all customers? 

GROCERY SHOPPING FIRSTS

I have never done much grocery shopping. I eat at restaurants way too often. But things have changed for me quite a bit.

I buy most of my groceries at Walgreens these days which is easier to shop at with the Kroger korner in the store. Smaller and no crowds. Maximum capacity is 44 according to the sign on the door. Besides soups, peanut butter, bread and crackers, I’m also buying fruits and vegetables there. Decided eating an apple a day is a good habit to get into. This is a good time for all of us to start good habits.

Just the other day was the first time I’ve seen toilet paper in the store for six weeks!
 

There was a limit of two paper products, the sales clerk reminded me. Do I buy paper towels too? It was a tough decision. I’ve also seen new toilet paper commercials lately assuring us that Angel Soft, Cottonelle, and Charmin are all busy producing plenty of rolls of the coveted paper gold for us 24 hours a day. Yes, as we all know, toilet paper is an essential item. And somebody is making a mint producing all those new commercials. 

April was the first time I bought milk at the Frisch’s drive-thru. How convenient! Half gallons of white and chocolate milk are available. Next time I bought a pound of turkey, cheese, and hoagie buns. Good for a week of lunches. What a nice service for those who would prefer to stay out of stores these days. Hope this trend continues for a while.

I still buy ready-made carryouts from drive-thrus and restaurants. I want to show my support for our local businesses and their staff. I want them to still be around when they can open for dine-in services. In the meantime, there’s no harm in tipping those still serving me at my car window instead of a booth. It’s still great service.

SOCIALIZING FIRSTS

After many years of resisting, I created a Facebook account. At this point I only have one friend, but I was able to check up on what others are doing whether I know them or not. I usually don’t have time for such socializing or stalking. Rather interesting and possibly addicting.

First time I stayed up until 4 in the morning since I was a teenager – for no apparent reason except I could. Creating a Facebook account may have contributed to that long evening. I regretted it the next day when I stayed in bed and sleep on and off all day. I’m too old for that type of behavior.

First time someone asked me to “hang out” with them virtually. It’s an app. Check it out. I didn’t want to share my picture though. I hadn’t showered and was in fact “hanging out” in bed because I had stayed up until 4 in the morning (another reason I regretted it).

First time I told my brother to “get away from me!” since we were kids. He kept inching closer to me as we talked in his driveway. “Social distancing,” I reminded him. Why was I out of my neighborhood and invading someone else’s?

FIRSTS WITH HOBBIES

This year was the first time I checked out an ebook from the library and read it on my phone. Never knew it was so easy. Quite convenient since my phone is always with me, no matter which room of the house I find myself in these days. The book is titled Self-Compassion. (A synopsis: If you can be kind to others for not being perfect, you can be kind to yourself for not being perfect too.) I also recently checked out an audiobook. Easier on the eyes. Why didn’t I try this before?

This April was the first time I took an online sign language class. I’ve taken in-person classes in the past (too long ago to remember much of it – only the alphabet). This was the first time a celebrity was in my class – our nationally recognized Gov. Beshear. “We will get through this, we will get through this together.” Thank you, Virginia!

First time I thought about washing my car by hand in many decades. It was a sunny, warm day! Thankfully, I resisted the temptation, although, now I’m tempted to also wax the car by hand. It may still happen. I have all summer. And I have a new car – new to me anyway.

Being home more often has allowed me to appreciate my house more – inside and out. 

For the last couple of years, I have spent most of my time away from home. Nice to get to know the place again. Couldn’t wait to wash those dishes in the sink, fold the laundry, and take out the recyclables. Looking outside and seeing the squirrels and birds socializing in my yard reminded me that I always enjoyed cutting the grass, taking a break in the shade of my trees, and inhaling the beauty of nature. Maybe I’ll buy an electric mower this year after all. Good physical exercise; another way to stay healthy at home.

FINAL FIRSTS

One of my final firsts has more of a somber tone, but still a good tone. Three years ago my mother passed away at the age of 86. I wasn’t ready for her to go. This spring was the first time I told someone I’m glad she isn’t here today. I am glad my mom isn’t here to go through this pandemic. If she was here, I would have kept her safe, but it would have been exhausting for me, and for my sisters and brothers in helping me. Now I realize she is better off in heaven with our dad. Took me three years to get there, and I still miss her. But mom and dad are together looking down on us, watching out for us, loving us as always. Maybe I’ll start playing her piano again. She would like that (so would I). “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!”

As the weeks of home isolation continued to drag on, this was the first time I have ever said I can’t wait to go back to work. Although it will be quite a change of pace, scenery, and daily duties with all the attention the coronavirus is demanding, I’m ready for this transition. I see my time off as a sabbatical of sorts – a time to explore my world from a different angle. But all things must come to an end, and I am ready to go back to work along with my fashionable face masks.

Finally, I hope this is not only the first pandemic I live through, but the only one I will ever experience. “Live through” is the operative phrase because we won’t know if a resurgence is just around the corner or a second wave will be coming this fall. All we can do is hope, be vigilant, and keep ourselves and others safe. 

Amen to that too!

Lynn James is a lifelong resident of Northern Kentucky and has lived in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties. She enjoys living and observing real life with real people.


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