What's it feel like to be in lockdown less than two miles from the danger with two young children soon to wake? Surreal, jittery, fraudulent and achingly real.
The temperature hit almost 70 today in Cambridge next to the Mount Auburn cemetery where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Isabella Stuart Gardner and civil rights activist Charles Sumner lay sleeping. The flowers begged for a glance, the warm air felt like a tease as we were locked inside watching.
I woke up early today to sirens and questioned the dichotomy against the magnolias in bloom outside my 10-year-old's window. The sila covered the lawn and my parents were visiting which meant a day of long walks along the Charles into Harvard Square: maybe the Harvard Coop, frozen yogurt and anything to heal the tragedy of Monday. But not today.
A habit embarrassingly, I check my phone, as ritualistic as brushing my teeth, albeit two years old. Mike from New York wants to know if we are OK, Mary from Montreal is worried things have taken another turn for the worst. I tiptoe downstairs hoping not to stir my seven and ten year-olds and my mother. I know however, that my father will be awake. I hear him clear his throat as I land on the first floor, my feet welcoming the cold wooden floors that only three weeks ago begged slippers.
We glanced a knowing look and made our way to the coffee machine and the TV. He debriefed me from his iPad which like men over 70, he now surfs when his body will no longer sleep.
The TV on low, I quickly surmise that I will need a story for my children. How do I tell them we are not to go outside today? Today the day of all days to dance in the grass in our ode to Spring. How do I fake a semblance of joy and normalcy? I wish school were not on break and that the principals and teachers who seem to know more than me at every turn could coach me through what to say. My husband away on business has yet to check in but I'm used to being alone in this economy where employers send you more than two miles away to earn your keep.
By 7:15 everyone is up. I start nervously to pretend an elaborate breakfast is in the works. I check my phone. I check my computer. I post on Facebook. I'm a junkie who doesn't want to be a junkie fully aware that it gives me a false sense of control. As though screaming to say, please tell me we are not alone and hoping someone answers.
By 8 a.m. more than 20 friends across the world have my back. A false sense of security sets in. Then the phone rings and the only friend that can really help, 500 feet away, calls to tell me there is a police officer walking through her yard to mine. I open the door, his gun is out of his holster, he is gentle and grey-haired and looks at me the same way my father did when I wandered downstairs in the early morning. I ask him what he is doing. He tells me they are scouring my neighborhood. Someone reported banging. My voice raises and I urge my mother to scuttle the children upstairs... so much for state of grace. My kids clue in that something is wrong.
The rest of the day winds between Bananagrams and art projects, code red calls from the City, and anxiety of a mother who coaxes them into forts and grilled cheeses in hopes of avoiding the nervous energy that gathers steam when you are a hostage in your own house. There are no trampolines or bike rides or other friends to bounce off. By four o'clock the tribe is restless, all of us. They beg, they coax, they fight to go outside. My mother and I tread gently into the driveway, then the front yard until the helicopters and sirens clamor again and we gently curb the play back inside. It's a long day. Drink calls but we refrain. Tea and coffee are on autopilot. Tylenol makes it way into the day by six. It's a weird energy. It's the type of exhaustion that you feel after a long walk through a shopping mall. Finally we see the neighbors out in their yard. We scuttle over and pull up a chair as the boys throw ball and the girls make drawings. Neither are suggested, both give the parents a sense of false security. We are doing OK. They are playing like children again. We start to unpack the anxiety with murmurs, phone checking and ball tosses.
Another text, likely the 50th of the day, comes in. Dinner. Six o'clock. Potluck. Four doors down. Six families comes together under one roof. The children run around the dining room table like hyper animals shaking their anxiety. They giggle and scream and the parents say nothing. We allow it. We encourage it and after food and drink and friendship and love we all start to breathe. We go out into the yard and watch them play. The children ask if they caught "the bad guy" and we say yes. It doesn't matter if we are certain. The sirens are so loud, the news is mega-hyped but we finally realize after 12 hours of lockdown that the only answer for these children as the sun sets is YES. They caught him and you are safe.