Words of Wisdom from the New Rochelle Containment Zone

Long time readers may recall my littlest sister, PYT aka Pretty Young Thing. She doesn’t have MS, or any chronic illness. But in true little sister style, she’s managed to become the center of attention…

I am blogging as a guest of Ms. Lab Rat today. It’s always nice when my big sis invites me to share her toys.
I have lived my life blissfully outside the MS maze. Every year researchers send me their MS sibling study and I share my boringly perfect health. I take no medicine. I have no difficulties doing anything (that’s a lie of course- I have great difficulty remembering to re-apply lipstick, and I tend to be self-absorbed) but what the study is really interested in is my balance and vision, my memory and peeing.
I have achieved ‘guest lab rat’ status because of COVID-19. I may not be in an NIH study but I AM living in the center of the New Rochelle ‘containment zone’. As I write this, it is Day 3. All quiet on the Eastern front. The National Guard is here cleaning and handing out food but I haven’t seen them. I’ve been on my silent street, watching my husband successfully coax our kids off training wheels. The road has fewer cars and they can ride longer stretches without needing to stop.
I have learned how to spell quarantine from assuring concerned friends over text that we are not, in fact, trapped here. My neighbors however have been quietly self quarantined for 15 days or so. It was easy to miss the absence of their presence. I realized too late that I hadn’t been asking if they need anything from the store- they do not.
Those of us who still roam free, stand on our lawns and discuss how surreal it is to be in the middle of a pandemic we were clearly not prepared for. We speculate on the ripple effects, share how our kids are reacting, is this a new seasonal reality, what it will do to the economy…and then we stop because we don’t even know what next week looks like.
I take my son out for a drive around town- grateful that children seem to be hardy in the face of this virus. If it were otherwise, I would be losing my mind. I have 3 kids around the age where fingers go in their nose and mouth and who only wash their hands when they are caught. This experience is making much better hand washers of us all.
I’ve made a point of going to the grocery store (even tho we are well stocked) so they have some business in return for staying open. I need them to be open in a week or two.
My son wants to ride in the car attached to the front of the shopping cart- he is 6 and barely fits. I’ve never asked him to wipe down the interior before but today I do…I’ve become that mom who sees germs on all the surfaces. On the cart handle, on the check out screen, on the cash back that I request, on the enormous stack of monopoly promotion cards the cashier hands me because there are few other customers to give them to. If we don’t win a boat, vacation home and screening room the game is certainly rigged.
I stop at the ice cream store to get a celebratory “training wheels are off” cake but mostly to give the poor clerk who showed up to work today something to do. While I am there, another customer orders a large cake for the team he is coaching- he imagines they will be celebrating the end of a multi-year run. I imagine the cake collecting freezer burn …no one is showing up to celebrate with their team. But I like his determination that the milestone should not be missed.
I drive by our TaiKwonDo studio and am happy to see students in the window- only to receive an email at night saying they’ve decided to close for a while too. I worry about how small businesses will survive this My husband reminds me that we just paid 6 months of a membership for 3 kids in advance. I am okay with that- they may not be as hard hit as others. I make a mental note to go back to the local hair salon, the one I had broken up with over bad color. I’ll get the Pheobe Waller-Bridge cut.
My fear isn’t that I will get sick. As I said at the top, I am boringly healthy. My fear is that I will get someone else sick. That I carry invisible COVID creepies to someone- like our heroic lab rat -and knock them off kilter. Or worse.
I reached this conclusion a day before our local institutions. I’ve taken it more to heart, and curtailed my own commute. We were all too late to the realization that our freedom to move must change.
What opened my eyes was our mother. I had invited her to lunch, a few days earlier, in the city. She’d cancelled a trip to Spain with my father for fear of COVID-19 . She drove into NYC instead of taking the train to avoid any risk of COVID-19. And then she sat down at a table with my husband and I, having lunch with two people who were likely closer to COVID-19 than her Spanish Air B & B hosts. I had not known she would later stop by our house- a block from the Temple which was ground zero for the cluster of infections- to drop off clothing to my kids. She was diligently curtailing her life to avoid exposure to a virus and my invitation led her to come hold hands with the hotspot, give it a kiss and a hug and head home to Connecticut, to my dad, with a little threat of Coronavirus hanging around the car. Being a good mother- she has not mentioned to me the oblivious selfishness of my invitation.
So if I have any wisdom to share from inside the containment zone it is to be more aware than I had been when this virus comes to your town- and it will. To be aware of your neighbors and what they may need. To be aware of your community. To be mindful of what you may carry along with you, as you carry on about your day. There are lab rats out there and they need every single one of us to think of their safety, even when we are secure in our own.

4 thoughts on “Words of Wisdom from the New Rochelle Containment Zone

  1. Some thoughts from PYT’s mom:

    I am in awe of my daughters. They each, in their unique ways, make the world a better place. I admire PYT, I’m so proud of PYT, not only for the devotion she has to her three children, (two first graders and a pre-schooler, ) but also because of the creativity and competence she brings to both her home life and her work.

    Last week’s encounter was not just lunch. It was an industry-wide celebration of the achievements of woman “pioneers”. My daughter is among the women who are leaders in a world of ideas; creative women who pave the way for the next generation. So to be invited to partake in the celebration and witness my daughter accepting a major industry award, was an honor and a privilege.

    But. Last week there was a threat looming on the horizon. Wuhan, Seattle, maybe a case or two of Corvid 19 right here in the USA. But not in New York. Not in my Connecticut town. Not yet, anyway. My husband, always prescient, was monitoring the virus daily via the reporting of two doctors on YouTube. He was worried. But he respected my decision to drive to NYC. It was wonderful! My daughter looked so sophisticated, so professional. It was clear she was respected and loved by her peers and staff. That was Wednesday.

    On Friday, her neighbor, a lawyer who, like PYT, took the train to NY, got sick. So did his wife and children. So did the neighbor who drove him to the hospital. PYT’s husband, who was also at the luncheon, is an EMT working in the Bronx. Up until then, he’d felt safe from contamination. None of his patients had the means to travel to Europe, so how could they be carriers? No, his company had not provided the EMTs with any additional protective gear. No, he wasn’t worried.

    Then, they locked down the lawyer’s synagog, a block from PYT’s home. Then their son’s preschool was closed, so EMT-Dad took a leave to care for the kids. Then New Rochelle became a “containment zone”.
    Each day brought different circumstances, heightened alarm. Each day the world got darker. PYT felt sorry for having me come to celebrate with her. She sent roses! But she could not have seen the days ahead any more than any of us could. Nobody on earth was alive to witness the Pandemic of 1918. We just couldn’t imagine this.

    A few days after being in NY, feeling a bit like I was over-reacting, I reported to the organization where I volunteer two mornings a week that “in an excess of caution” I would be self-isolating for two weeks. I backed out of a volunteer commitment on Sunday, again feeling like I was being silly. It was only when Yale University, the sponsor of the event I’d side-stepped cancelled it, that I felt like maybe my husband was right (as usual,) in his caution.

    We prefer for life to go on as we have always known it. 2,000 years ago Jesus said: “People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” Luke 17:27. What was true 2,000 years ago, is true now. So savor all the goodness in your life and be mindful of your neighbors. Let’s all work to “flatten the curve” and go forward with hope and joy and patience, but with appropriate caution.

    PYT and Lab Rat’s Mom
    Then they closed their neighborhood pre-school.

  2. I think I may have accidentally sent something back to the blog that I thought was going to my brother Rege (he who once managed a whole lot of distribution stuff for Merck till he couldn’t take the corporate world any longer). I have since actually gotten it to him but please forgive my digital flub, if that’s what I did. Thank for getting PYT to check in. A good read that helps make it all even more immediate than it already is. It will soon become much more so in unpredictable ways. Keep blogging!!!

Leave a Reply to James McKenzie Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s