By Meg Higginbotham
Never in a million years did I ever think that I would be confined to my home for months. I also never dreamed that my two-year-old would, in her own way, quarantine herself in our house alone, but I continue to be amazed. As a mom, wife, teacher, businesswoman, active church member, and citizen, the quarantine life has been a surprising breath of fresh air. It never occurred to me just how much I miss when I go throughout the daily grind, and this isolation has afforded me the opportunity to experience all the things.
My husband, daughter, and I were on our way to Florida to visit some friends and attend a large golf tournament the weekend when all the Corona chaos ensued. We had already left Madison when we got the news that the tournament was canceled, so we continued our journey south to spend some time in the warm, Florida sunshine. Further into our southbound travels, I learned that school was canceled for, at that time, just one week. Total shock set in. School? Canceled? What? As I processed the school closings and canceled social gatherings, I had no idea how much our world was about to change. As we mindlessly went on about our weekend, we started hearing murmurings of potential state border closures, food shortages, and toilet paper hoarding back home. We thought the idea of people hoarding toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes, and diapers was ridiculous, until we realized it was true. Reluctantly, we left our tropical paradise and headed north, but not without a quick detour to our favorite island, St. Simons, where we had our last normal meal at a restaurant and last visit to a grocery store without our PPE.
Looking back, it felt so weird coming home. Everything was still the same, but it was also very different – the houses, the neighbors, our sweet little town. Driving down our street, you see the red ribbons supporting our nation, you see once busy families on walks together. You can even go on a bear hunt right in town. It’s amazing how people have come together during all of this. The slow pace, creativity, kindness, and neighborly ways are what I want to remember from this quarantine. Not the politics, not the screaming toddler tantrums, not the craze of virtual teaching, or the failed attempts at potty training. I want to remember our yard being “egged” on Easter weekend, so that my daughter could have an egg hunt. I want to remember students dropping teacher appreciation gifts on my front porch. I long to keep fresh in my mind the experiences of blowing bubbles with my baby girl, long drives with the windows down in my husband’s truck, and spreading moon rock gravel with my mom. Well, maybe not the painful memory of the blisters brought on by spreading the gravel, but the time spent with my mom. Time spent with the ones I love has been one of the biggest blessings out of all of this.
Another blessing from my quaint quarantine has been time spent in the kitchen. I have made more home-cooked meals in the last two months than I think I have in a lifetime. I’m talking about home-cooked breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and the snack before the snacks. Yep, they’ve all been homemade. I mean, I love to cook, but geez, my stove and oven are begging for a break. After a month and a half of cooking at home, we broke our restaurant food strike for some Mexican grub. Y’all, let me tell you, that was the best order of veggie fajitas I’ve ever consumed. My toddler was partial to the cheese dip, as evidenced by the amount that ended up in her hair and on her clothes that night and I can’t say as I blame her. I feel like I’ve always taken for granted the ease of grabbing food to go or sitting in a restaurant. That will never happen again. It’s been great cooking at home, learning how to make bread, making Mississippi roast, and cooking bacon on my new bacon cooker. Let me just tell you, homemade fajitas pale in comparison to the real deal. Trust me, I speak from experience.
From cooking to sewing, I feel like I channeled my inner Martha Stewart during this period of social distancing. You know, the Martha Stewart we all knew and loved before she was incarcerated? Sewing masks has been no small feat, especially with a toddler around. Trying to occupy a toddler while simultaneously preventing my sewing machine’s needle from going through my hand must mean I’m one more amazing multi-tasker. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I felt like making masks was my small contribution to society during all of this craziness. Well, making masks and continuing to teach young minds through a computer screen.
That leads to me this: I want to give a shout out to all the people working from home, teaching from home, and working and teaching from home. For lack of better words, “This ain’t no joke.” What more is that raising a toddler during a quarantine/pandemic/global crisis really isn’t a joke. My toddler got so bored with me the other day that she locked me out of the house. I keep telling myself it wasn’t intentional. She literally laughed at me on the other side of the locked door. Maybe she needed a moment alone? Maybe she was taking the whole self-isolation thing way too seriously? Maybe she wanted to social distance from her mommy? Who knows? Praise the Lord, she unlocked it about what seemed liked 5,634,247 minutes after she locked it. In hindsight, it’s hilarious and pretty much sums up her personality. At the time, it wasn’t the least bit funny. Needless to say, it has been the most eventful happenings of this whole experience.
Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, my quaint quarantine will quickly become a distant memory. I pray daily for our little community, our healthcare and essential workers, and our nation. I hope that we can all come out of this pandemic craziness a little more grateful, exponentially more willing to live life at a much slower pace, and a much less likely to hoard paper products.
Meg Higginbotham is wife to Ray, mommy to Audrey, an MCES teacher, and definitely a better sewer than writer.