Saturday, March 14, 2020

It's been a zoo around here.

Life has been something else this week, let me tell you. 

It's hard to believe this is the same week that started with clock changes leading to sleep deprivation, because by now that seems forever ago.   The week before spring break is always pretty tough on students, because professors pile on the midterms; and it's tough on professors, because students keep giving us so much darned stuff to grade.  This year, though, I think I was actually grateful for the normalcy of stressful midterms. 

Last weekend, my college's ITS people started holding classes online teaching, and Tuesday we discovered those classes were going to be more immediately useful than we thought.  Friday, as I finished up my calculus class, my students hugged me as they left.  Part of me wanted to say, "social distance!", but another part of me just wanted to love these kids heading off into uncertainty, the spring break that means the end of face-to-face classes. So I hugged them right back.  I'll teach them from afar, but I might not see them in person again. 

In the afternoon, I brought the dog into my office and announced "Puppy hours" for any students still stuck on campus.  Students came and sat on my floor with Prewash and showed me pictures of their dogs back home.  My students from China are particularly anguished.  If they return home, as some of their parents are clamoring for them to do, it's possible they won't be able to access the internet and be able to continue with their classes; if they stay here, they still can't meet with me face-to-face, and so they're even more isolated than their classmates who have nearby families.   But I also have US-based students for whom home is close to homelessness, whose internet is iffy at best.  All I could offer them was dog hair.  You know, you offer what you can.

French toilet paper.
And at the same time, I feel like Auden's plowman in Musee des Beaux Arts, whistling along happily behind my plow while Icarus plunges into the sea.  Because aside from the fact that my teaching style is going to have to turn completely upside down starting 8 days from today, life is pretty darned good here.  N-son is still tooling around New England with his brother-in-law, happily installing giant doors in the sides of giant buildings.   K-daughter and her family are loving their new home.  My husband is enjoying Paris a heck of a lot more than the newspapers seem to indicate he should.  He sent me this lovely picture from France: unlike in the U.S, he says, stores there still have lots of toilet paper.  I wrote back,
You don't have to bring toilet paper from France; we're very well supplied in this house.  Not only did my sister start our supply off well*, but I knocked over a little old man at Walmart and grabbed the rolls from his cart, so we have extra we can sell on the black market.
*[by giving me toilet paper for Christmas] 

But he knew I wasn't telling the truth about all of that; I'd never shop at a big store.  

And then, there was the Zoo Dinner, a family tradition we celebrate in March.  It was a bit of a smaller family than usual (and by "a bit", I mean that instead of 6 or 8 of us, there were 3 of us), but we still did the meal up proud.  I-daughter wore her tiger tights,
 and we ate turkey ham-bear-gers . . .
 . . . and a boa constrictor . . .
 and salad and bear poop (chocolate cupcakes).  And we turned the chairs around and ate through the bars  . . .
 . . . which is not easy, let me tell you. 

So I'm really pretty comfortable now.  My exams are graded, my internet works, my dog is feeling well-loved, and I have enough leftovers to tide me over for weeks if not months.  With any luck, I'll be able to figure out this week what I can do to try to help out with people who aren't quite as well off as I am.  I don't remember which author I was reading recently who pointed out that a situation like this is gives us a chance to make a real difference in our communities --- to respond with compassionate courage, rather than fear.  I think I'm up for that challenge.

And that's the news from our family.  May you and yours take care of yourselves and the people around you.  

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