Six Months into Quarantine, Gelato Mama Has Some Things to Get off Her Chest

Next to normal.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Emily Tecklenburg
  • Illustrated by
    Nikki Smith

My pandemic brain is wilting.

I know this because when I recently grabbed my daughter’s school lunch bag to pack a few things for the beach, I began to cry. The sight alone of the avocado-printed bag summoned sudden fat tears of sadness.

Wait. Don’t I hate packing lunches? Wasn’t it a pain in the ass? Can’t I remember how much I despised washing those little containers and becoming angry at the wasted food? Who doesn’t want to eat a bagel? My life is complete when I get to eat a bagel!

Who am I if I can’t complain about packing lunches? I’m just a sad lady, dreaming about washing tiny Tupperware while eating leftover everything bagels. I realize how pathetic it is that I cried over a lunch bag, but I still cry every time Rudy finally gets his acceptance letter to Notre Dame. So I barely stand a chance when confronted with relics of a pre-pandemic time.

A hundred things every day remind me of a life that feels far away. These things press upon me, practically suffocating me in their simplicity: A basket full of cleats the children outgrew before a foot stepped in them. Baseball bags sitting around collecting not memories but dust. A pile of school gym clothes, laundered so many months ago, sitting atop a dresser.

I mean, laundry makes me cry, but usually not because I’m longing to do it. What I wouldn’t give to find crumpled-up gym clothes in the bottom of a backpack, pausing to ponder when they were last washed. I guess I’m also just a sad lady, dreaming of laundry—even though the one thing a pandemic can’t kill are piles of laundry.

These last (hundred) months have felt endless in their days, yet it only seems a moment ago when I sat in the parking lot on that last fateful Friday of school. Anxious energy filled the air. The fear of the unknown pulsed through our veins. The children laughed nervously as they swung their heavy backpacks into the back of my Jeep. We didn’t know. We still don’t know.

We try to do our part while mourning what we left behind and mourning the pain this pandemic has caused. While my pandemic brain is wilting and the Minecraft consumption is multiplying, each day I hold on tight to the people and the things and the laundry that make me feel … normal.

But let it be known that when we finally get to send our children back to school, I reserve the right to complain about packing lunches.