When All Else Fails, Laugh?

The future is bright.

You may have noticed a hardcore return to humor. Here's why: The summer ended in darkness. So many question marks floated by as this teacher/parent and thousands of others a lot like me approached back to school. Some worried, tossed and turned. Me, I made videos. 

So many of us are going through the same things. We didn’t know what school would look like for our kids until about two weeks before it was due to start for teachers. Normally, school solves the childcare problem but this time, it wouldn’t be so. I went back September 1, and the kids will go back two weeks later. In our town, the plan for school this fall is hybrid: the kids will be in school two days a week, home three. Mind: Blown, and the blast kicked up a cloud of question marks. Who would watch the kids when they were at home? Who would help the little guy on the computer? Would one of us parents quit our job? Would I seek a different job that might be remote, and that would pay more so that I could be around? But I’d have to help the kids. I couldn’t just work at home with them quietly working on their schoolwork beside me in parallel: In spring of COVID-19, in most households, families learned that that’s something very much like impossible.

One solution: Cake for breakfast. Check. But what else? We all fretted, right? Me, I kicked into gear. I downsized from a leather-seated Highlander seven-seater I had leased brand new to a 10-year-old Prius with soon-to-be-dirty tan seats and 105k miles. I got my son’s passport renewed and looked into the EU passport application process. (Run!!!! Probably not, but it was fun to consider.) I bit my nails wondering if there is an impending rebellion, depending on the election results. I transformed the playroom into a homework office by replacing the curtains with pure white. I redid my resume and updated my LinkedIn. I applied for a whole bunch of jobs, interviewed twice for one, and turned down the other interview. I spent two weeks Googling kitchen design. Cuz. I spoke with a couple of private schools, had a Zoom interview with one, then got a magical call one morning from someone offering babysitting. I canceled a weekend away because I thought I had COVID, and we spent the weekend at my sister’s house instead, five miles away, where I experienced the peace of minimalism for a few days. (That was nice.)

Then I bought a resin statue of a gnome doing yoga. “Gnomaste,” it says. We got home from our weekend away, and I immediately placed the gnome in the weedy, overgrown garden next to the mailbox. I dropped my bags on the living room floor with vacation intentions: throw everything away and paint the entire world white.

But I was back to work the next day, and truth be told, I don’t even have time to go through the mail pile, never mind hug my socks to see how each pair makes me feel. Marie Kondo, I really don’t mind talking to my knickknacks; they are my oldest friends, after all. But who has the time?

So now we move into pandemic season 3. Summer is over, but the pandemic is not. We’re back to school but the virus never took a vacation in the first place. Fraught though it was, I enjoyed the six months in hiding. Fewer obligations. No visits. No frantic days like yesterday, where we visited a friend (arriving an hour later than originally planned), dropped someone at work, picked them up, dropped them at home, raced to meet someone else for an ice cream, put the turtle out to graze, and then race home to make a Shrek Butt Cake (don't ask) and host a very small cookout. In between, texting with others, a few rounds of Words with Friends. Losing the phone every five seconds; frantically looking for it, for no particular reason. Worrying about the kids on their social media. Checking email, driving around, not usually at the same time. We saw lovely people, made nice connections. Had decent conversations. But it was a lot. And this is the way the world is these days, is it not? Are your days a little like this? 

Labor Day weekend bookends summer, and this is how fall begins: with an overflowing basket of unknowns. I’m a teacher and am required to be in the school buildings five days a week, even though the students are in on alternating days. On Mondays, all teachers are required to teach synchronously. But what will that look like? No one has told us. (I think no one knows. Not their fault, I suppose.)

What I do know: I will spend my first few weeks teaching in a fairly nice outdoor tent, because we can’t teach instruments indoors, per state order. So that gets me through, oh, the first two or three weeks of school. When the weather is less than ideal, I bring the kids indoors and what do I do? How do I teach? What do I teach? I am not too worried about that part, really, as there is a world of things to teach. Music is a universe unto itself.  But… none of us can really plan it yet, because we don’t actually know enough about, well, just about anything about how this will work and not all of us know where we'll get the hand sanitizer for our teaching spaces. I'll buy it, most likely. 

I teach instruments, so I take kids out of the classroom for a half hour and give them music lessons. I will be taking kids from their classroom when they only have two days a week in school. Do we foresee resistance from their teachers? We do. Do we understand? We should. And how long will be back at school anyway? Many say a month, max. Then back to remote. Who knows. Not one of us knows.

There are many problems. But lacking an easy solution, there really is only one option: Comedy.

And so, Calling from the Prius. Pandemic, Season 3.