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A view from the home front

Even in a time of pandemic, life goes on. Here are stories and photos from a community sheltered in place.


Silence

It struck me. All was silent, there were no sounds of cars, trains, planes. Can you thank a pandemic for silence? What exactly is it that makes me so relaxed? Why do I have this good feeling? How to explain it; for there is still the stress of not knowing when and how the virus will strike but nevertheless, I feel good. That’s it. It’s the noiselessness. I love silence. Loud noises, loud big gatherings with constant talking make me want to put a plug in my ears, flee, find a quiet place. Noise throws me off, makes me nervous.

Not to say that I didn’t feel well before. We cannot avoid it, we are surrounded with a certain degree of noise and we get used to it. But I needed this pandemic to realize what I prefer. Silence.

So I had to explore this experience. The exploration of the senses. Not all silence is the same—there are certain degrees. My preferred silence is not the void as in falling in a deep crevasse. It’s not nothingness. That’s not it.

My silence has layers. The pandemic halted life as we knew it; we had to come to a complete stop and could at last contemplate what was and what is important. As so many people pointed out, being in nature is a blessing. The silent rustling of the leaves on the maple tree, the chirping of all the different birds I can’t identify, the soft faraway talking of people, the low-volume radio in another room of the house. This is my winner, my number one silence.

Now that the confinement has been loosened, there are other noises I can start to categorize: the ones I like and the ones I hate. Train in the distance: good, I can live with that. Blaring music coming from a car with a broken exhaust: bad, but it’s like lightning in that before you know it, it’s already gone. A fighter plane tearing overhead: extremely bad.

I know I will get used again to the constant drone of cars and trucks on Route 2 and Interstate 495. But then, it’s not like it’s coming from 6 feet away. It’s far enough from my house and garden.

I’ll get used to every single layer, and my well-being should not depend on noise or no noise. After all, there are always the Bose noise-canceling headphones!

—Marijke Vallaeys, South Shaker Road


Haircuts R Us

My husband has never liked having strangers cut his hair, so soon after we married he started asking me to do it. A less-than-optimal experience with a Flowbee in the early ’90s finally put an end to his home-haircut requests, but a few weeks ago, they came back.

He tried to convince me how easy it would be, but I resisted. His desperation grew. While watching TV at night, he would take a clump of hair between his forefinger and thumb and mindlessly twist it, as if that might make it fall off. I took pity on him and agreed to give it a try.

Lisa Bradley works on a fade while cutting her son Olivier’s hair during his study break. Parents have taken on many new roles during the current shelter-in-place period ... from homework coordinator to barber. (Photo by Lisa Aciukewicz)

Our kids advised him against it, using our dog as an example of just how patchy my haircuts could be. I couldn’t argue with that, so I searched YouTube and found April. April’s instructional video was no-nonsense and confidence-inspiring. She showed every step in the process with close-up camera work and even instructions on where to stand and hand positions for each section of the head. Half an hour later, I was ready.

My husband was briefly afraid of my newfound enthusiasm, but on a Friday night we set up shop in the kitchen, with April on a laptop next to me. It was a slow process, hitting pause, reverse, play, while juggling a comb and scissors. But it went well at first. Cutting around the ears proved to be straightforward, and my client even held his own ears out of the way, so that was a plus. But when I moved up to the sides of his head, I kept losing my place. Without an ear-boundary, I needed to find the bits I had already cut to use as a guide, but hair all looks the same and those bits were elusive.

I must have been voicing my confusion because my husband decided to offer advice. I advised him that suggestions were not being taken at this time and that April’s client was pleasantly mute during her entire video. I started winging it and hoping for the best, glad that he couldn’t see what I was doing.

Things seemed to start going better as I went, probably because I was running out of hair to make mistakes with. But the hair did seem to be blending in, and it didn’t look too choppy anywhere, thanks to April.

When it was done, my husband seemed pleasantly surprised, and my kids said it “didn’t look too bad,” although they quickly left the room before I could make eye contact with their hair.

The next day, after closer inspection, my client announced that he “needed an adjustment” and complained that “it’s a little puffier here than on the other side.” I told him to make an appointment.

—Joan Eliyesil, Westcott Road


A different graduation

Abigail McClung's graduation from Emmanuel College took on a different dimension Saturday, May 16, when her mother organized a graduation event for her at home on Madigan Lane. Abby processed to the granite steps in front of her home to the sound of Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" and was welcomed to the event by her mom, who opened the ceremonies and introduced the keynote speaker, Abby’s uncle George Triantaris, who spoke about the challenges of these times. Abby's younger sister Sarah, a junior at Emmanuel College, spoke on behalf of the student body and presented her sister with a diploma. A special luncheon followed, all while maintaining social distancing. Pictured from left: Connie Caras, grandmother; uncle Jonathan and aunt Miranda Trahan with cousin Harrison; mom Stephanie Trahan-McClung with graduate Abigail Eleni McClung and Sarah McClung seated in front; uncle Paul and aunt Ae Trahan holding cousins Leda and George; and uncles George Triantaris and Steve Nigzus. (Courtesy photo)


What I’ve learned

Yesterday, I dressed up (the first time in weeks) for a Zoom conference. I hate Zoom. I mostly look at myself and think: Every line in my face is magnified by this stupid app. Maybe I should turn the viewer off (or whatever that square I’m in is called) and leave that black square. Some days in quarantine a black square reflects how I feel.

I’m tired of reading statistics on COVID-19 fatalities. I’m tired of listening to MSNBC pundits. Frankly, I’m tired of all politicians, even Andrew Cuomo, with whom I mostly agree. I’m weary of his lectures. He sounds like my mother.

Closer to home, I’m tired of bleaching every delivery item. I may be one of a few who enjoys picking my own onions, potatoes, and broccoli. I hate when Roche Brothers substitutes three jars of peanuts for the three cans of chopped tomatoes.

I’ve experienced quarantine positives as well. First, while virtual yoga classes and workouts aren’t nearly as satisfying as the real thing, I’ve been practicing five or six times a week. Normally, I manage one or two classes. I’ve grown stronger and realize consistency makes a difference.

I’ve also worked in the garden more than pre-COVID. I’m a city kid who has a love/hate relationship with the outdoors. My friends don’t understand, but I’m afraid of squirrels, chipmunks, and all outside things. There weren’t many critters creeping around the streets of Chicago’s Southside (where I spent my youth). Now, however, I feel a need to go outside.

Another positive—time to really clean. Being home 24/7, I realize my house has some disgusting nooks and crannies. I attacked my fridge, removing every drawer and shelf and washing them in soapy water with bleach. I ditched the fish sauce from 2010, four full bottles of mirin, and six jars of various mustards. One drawer, which contained a bunch of grains, was so bad the coronavirus probably resided there.

Finally, I’ve enjoyed having my younger daughter back home. We haven’t spent this much time together since she went away to college. I’ve learned she’s more organized than I’ll ever be. She’s Marie Kondo-ed all dish and bath towels. She loves herbs and cooks with them in inventive ways. She’s obsessed with Allyson Roman recipes and likes to dance while she cooks.

I realize my complaints are minor. I have a comfortable home, a garden, can afford food delivery, and am able to stay inside. Many don’t have this luxury. The COVID-19 statistics clearly show that for large numbers of folks this is an awful time of sadness and suffering. For that reason, I’ll quit complaining (for now).

—Marcia Croyle, Warren Avenue


 

Editor's Note: How are you coping with these unprecedented times?  The Press wants to know. We’ll take care of the news; but we need your help to tell the human side of this crisis. Send us a photo with a caption or an anecdote about how you are getting through your days. What is bringing you comfort? What insights have you gained? What have been your greatest challenges and how have you overcome them? Your photos and stories, antidotes to isolation, will help bring us closer together in this time of social distancing. Send to editor@harvardpress.net with subject “stories” and include your name and address.

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