Words and photographs by Brenda Shelly

Day one: On Saturday morning, I told my parents that I no longer wanted them going out in public. What is this strange new land where I start telling my 81 and 85 year-old parents where they can and can’t go? It began weeks ago when I suggested they reconsider the idyllic cruise during which they'd planned to admire Amsterdam’s tulips. When Mom finally said they'd cancelled the cruise, I found I could breathe again. Hadn't realized I'd stopped. Stress feels like that sometimes. My mother doesn't give in easily. Her first response to my concern was something like, "You have to die from something...." She’s a rolling stone and my father will not be happy to miss his tee-time on the golf course. But I hope they stay put, communing with their fat cats and facing each frightening new headline with the reassuring comedic relief of living with each other. They do laugh. A lot.

Among other recommendations in his article, a pathology professor (with coronavirus experience) extolled the viral-blocking virtues of zinc lozenges. I journeyed immediately to the nearest pharmacy only to discover that everyone else has now also become familiar with this concept. Including the third-party sellers on Amazon who are gouging consumers at a rate of $46 plus shipping for 24 citrus and elderberry lozenges. Really, friends? I do not wish ill will, but some people clearly need to experience the sensation of one of their own overpriced zinc lozenges temporarily lodged in their throats.

Day two: I went grocery shopping for my parents today and used an embarrassing number of wipes, just to make it to the produce aisle. Green bananas secured, I soon felt like a crazy person, filling up gallon jugs at the filtered water station. I had a whole shopping cart full of them. People wonder where I got my anxious and over-the-top tendencies. My father had marked them all, caps and jugs with matching Sharpie marker numbers because apparently not all lids fit securely on all jugs. I was sorely tempted to sing about Jack and Jill trudging up the hill at the top of my lungs to complete the look of lunacy. And to keep everyone at least six feet away. Some shady-looking shoppers LIKE THE GUY IN THE PAINTING MASK were driving their carts brazenly into my personal space.

There has got to be some sane middle ground between foolish (albeit blissful) ignorance and listening to every news briefing and podcast. I’ve been devouring each new article on county, state, CDC and Johns Hopkins sites as soon as they become available. Obsessively watching the number of cases ticking up. It is mesmerising, like watching fish swim...though these fish have teeth like piranhas and I am actually starting to drive myself crazy. Boundaries for self-preservation are going to become necessary soon.

Day three: The very nature of school nursing means seeing hordes of coughing, feverish small people every day. I wash my hands more times than I can count and my skin is always raw with inevitable cracks by February. This C-19 hand-washing feels different. The effects of general panic associated with a novel coronavirus aren’t something easily neutralised by a squirt of Aveeno lotion.

I’ve suddenly got too much time on my hands and a stack of old DVDs on my fireplace. I began with the nonsense of Date Night, moved on to the magic that was Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey in Enchanted, and today, in honour of our friend, Tom Hanks (and what we all hope will be his complete recovery), I gave myself a good cry watching Sleepless in Seattle. I will not rest until I’ve completed the entire pile. I sure hope my term of social isolation is not so lengthy I am forced to resort to titles like Edward Scissorhands.

Chop-chop, friends. Let's stay at home and flatten the curve.


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Life in lockdown. Womankind approached its community to write about life in lockdown around the globe, notably a three-day diary of everyday life under the threat of COVID-19. Womankind is publishing these stories freely to show how the pandemic is affecting women from all over the globe - from New York, to Barcelona to Glastonbury.


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