It’s 7 a.m. on Sunday, April 19. I’ve slept a little later than I wanted today. Then I pick up my phone and see a text from Jim. Although he is right next to me, texting is now how we coordinate when 1. I am working in my office with the door closed, and 2. I fall asleep early, and Jim wants me to know something when I am coherent in the morning and he is not.
I open the text. And just like that, all the worries I had about my foreseeable future evaporated like a margarita at sunset. Jim had relayed that the Florida governor had finally made a good call; schools were closed for the rest of the school year.
Now devoid of any little hint of anxiety, my heart skipped a beat of relief. I love my students; I really do. I love to see them, and I miss them dearly! However, their safety (and mine) is more important than the longing for face-to-face interaction. Now, they would be safe until this virus ran its course. They would be safe from the mental anguish of shooter drills. They would be safe from bullying. Safe from peer pressure. Safe. Safe. Safe.
The uncertainties had certainly weighed on my mind: What if we went back and someone sneezed? How close should I be to my students, many of whom are used to greeting me with a hug? Might I have to get tested for COVID-19 if a student gets sick? What would that be like? Would the other students have to be tested? I already got the flu shot once this year, and might I once again have to muster the courage to face a needle?
Nope. I feel safe at home. I feel that my students are safe at home. And life is good.
* * *
Saturday, Jim and I went out on the boat. Winds less than 10. It was a beautiful day.
As we headed out to the bay, I would point at other boaters and yell, “People! People!” and we’d wave to them with big, genuine grins. They’d wave back. And we’d appreciate them because we don’t see many others of our own species nowadays except for at the grocery story, which we were now trying our best to avoid at all costs. Otherwise, our only contact is with the six remaining chickens and four bunnies that run to the back corner of the cage when we go to pet them.
First order of business on the boat was to bury Summer, my chicken that died Thursday, in the Florida Bay. Again, I was sad as I said goodbye to the best egg-layer of my little farm. But not sad enough to turn around afterwards and head home.
After giving her a proper funeral, Jim and I hung out in the shallow bay waters to get sun on our bodies. Neither one of us cared if we got burnt; we kind of wanted to take the sun with us. No masks. No latex gloves. Just water, mangrove islands, and sunshine.
After about an hour of talking and laughing and sunning, Jim stopped abruptly and his eyes became big, round flapjacks.
“I forgot about Coronavirus,” he said in amazement. “For a while, I forgot completely about it. Everything was just…. normal.”
I immediately got what he was saying. We had experienced a sustained time without talking or thinking about the deadly pandemic that had now killed more than 40,000 people from the United States alone. It was a CoronaVacation.
Next, we went fishing in my fishing hole. We caught several mangrove snappers — two keepers — as we soaked up sunshine and fresh air.
When we had exhausted most of our frozen shrimp bait, we made a run to the Sandbar. We figured everyone would be observing the required 50-feet-apart rule for anchored boaters, but alas we were wrong. The Sandbar was hopping as usual, boats tied up to each other and people in groups of more than 10, practically within a foot of each other. It was nuts.
“We can anchor at the end of the channel,” Jim said, noting my hesitation.
I agreed. The wind was blowing in from the ocean, and there was only one boat east of us… WAY east of us. This would be our Sandbar spot – a place where we couldn’t even touch the bottom, and a place free from the COVID orgy about 50 yards south of us.
We ran back to the boat dock about an hour before sunset. We washed off the boat, and I filleted the fish while Jim prepared the rest of dinner.
It was a good day. It was a good weekend. It was a good end to the chapter of educational uncertainty.