Not long ago, Mom and I watched the Little House on the Prairie re-run titled “Plague”. This episode, featuring a violent typhus outbreak, eerily mirrored our 21st century pandemic life, albeit in a stark historic context. “Thank God we don't have it that bad,” Mom says, eyes bulging at the screen. At that moment, Charles was hacking at a giant ice block, sweat pouring down his face. I agreed. Undeniably, technology has drastically changed the lives we live. It may be a matter of life or death, but it doesn't always feel like it from an insulated, well-stocked home with takeout literally a few buttons away. Perhaps this is why life during Covid-19 seems so varied and complex to me. The images are startlingly distinct, actually more so than other years I've experienced. They were scary, frustrating, exciting, and some of them were even a little humorous. I'm sure everyone remembers the toilet paper crisis. Mom's sudden hoarding, in a sense, marked the beginning of Covid for me. But Mom did not stop at toilet paper. Beginning of March, Mom sends me a photo of the kitchen counter piled with immortal canned and pantry goods. “We're going have to gather leaves to wipe our butts soon,” Mom declared grimly, as toilet paper became a limited commodity. She was very serious about this too. Later, I found a book titled What Did We Use Before Toilet Paper? in the garage, a symbolic wreath of leaves adorning the words. But maybe the onset was when my figure skating coach shared an alarming news story with me. A healthy, young doctor had just died of Covid. I had seen a few headlines about Covid, however, I assumed it was like any other weird illness you see pop up sporadically. Quite frankly, I thought Mom was just being crazy. For a more coherent storyline, I would designate both of these memories as foreshadowing; the “scary music” before catastrophe hits. My Covid beginning, then, would be when I caught the flu and feared I had Covid. I've never been more happy to be diagnosed with the flu in my entire life. I am a figure skater, and so once the flu-scare passed over (I wasn't contagious anymore), I returned to the rink. This lasted a week before quarantine shut down all the rinks across the country like dominoes. “Do you want to go to New Hampshire??” Mom asked, understanding how much I love my ice. “I hear they're still open!” I reassured her that it was only a matter of time before they would be shut down too. Mom would move heaven and earth to make me happy, so I do have to restrain myself from taking advantage of her whims. Truthfully, I was a little surprised at my own calm at the rink-closure. It's not a myth that diehard athletes respond to removal from sport as drug addicts recover from addiction. I have been injured twice; both times resulted in an embarrassing amount of crying from yours truly. But when Covid hit, I saw challenge instead of setback. Two things comforted me: 1) I knew every other skater around the world was dealing with the same circumstances as me, and 2) I wasn't injured. Therefore, the bulk of my Covid-19 imagery took place in the garage. This image was very hot and sweaty, in part because the Florida heat is no joke, but also because I was working hard. I dedicated about three hours to my training each day, which was as close as I could get to mimicking my on-ice practices. This lasted about three or four months, until things finally opened up again. Strangely, I felt stronger upon returning to the ice. Not only did my home workouts give me newfound strength; I also had confidence to supplement it. In fact, I believe much of that strength was, in actuality, confidence manifesting itself in my skating. Returning to the rinks stirred mixed feelings. On one hand, I was overjoyed to have ice beneath my feet again, but on the other, I felt afraid. At home, I knew we were safe from the virus. Most of all, I was worried I would transmit it to Mom, who doesn't handle sickness well. I was worried about my friend, raised by her grandmother, and my coach, who suffers from sleep apnea. Even after being vaccinated, I still keep myself armed with numerous hand sanitizers at all times. Besides garage sweats, furious pumps of sanitizer, and Mom's quarantine preparation antics, there are the less amusing images of Covid life I can't forget. My friend and her grandmother trapped in their home in fear, unable to be safe in an environment which Covid lingers. Due to her weakened condition, her grandmother can't be vaccinated. My brother getting Covid, exposing himself to Mom unknowingly, and miraculously not infecting her. Most recently, a secondary coach who teaches me being hospitalized, half of his heart shutting down in the process. My montage of life with Covid incorporates a medley of images and emotions. Life didn't stop during Covid; it merely took a different form.
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