The sound of measured breathing comes from the baby seat, the couch, the bedrooms upstairs. It’s the only sound besides the steady rush of air from the heating system. The lights are off all over the house, the dying light of the dim winter day the only illumination. It’s mid-January, it’s cold and flu season, and we’re in quarantine.
This seems to happen every year. After the Christmas stress and sugar binge, everybody crashes and burns for most of the month. My husband’s illnesses are usually accompanied by fever, and every one of his children treat sickness the same way. So I face January with a bottle of Children’s Tylenol and blankets, and we shut the doors to our home and wait.
First one child, then another, falls ill, thrashes in bed, slowly recovers. The duration of each bout so precisely overlaps the next that we are prevented from going out as a group, usually for weeks. I steal away early on Saturdays to do a furtive grocery run, carrying hand sanitizer with me to cover my tracks. My husband uses up his sick leave caring for the least sick three while I carry the worst one to the doctor. There is no playgroup, no storytime, no church, and the days drag endlessly into each other.
If we try to see everything from a “useful challenge” standpoint, though, quarantine has a different face. When there’s sickness in the house, we withdraw, turn inward as a family. We remember the sickest in our prayers, all worry and care for them. We all share the burden of interrupted social activities until we can again face the world healthy, together. What seems like a useless exercise, I think, actually makes us stronger. Our “family immune system”, in a way.
Still, if I had a mail-order source that could bring me dry goods via UPS in under 24 hours, here would be my list:
More Children’s Tylenol, about a gallon
Diaper rash cream, for the one who’s on antibiotics
A decent movie nobody’s seen
Several yards of fabric
At some point, we’ll reemerge, stronger for these long quiet hours spent doing nothing but building immune systems and relationships. We may even be able to live without the Tylenol and rash cream until then. But doing without fabric and chocolate is deprivation indeed. They’d be better medicine anyway.