Every day, except Thursday, my deadline for this column, one day seems no different from any of the others.
I’m not exactly idle. In fact, my day seems fuller.
I’m up at 8 a.m., an hour later than I used to rise three times a week, for aqua aerobics. I go about my morning ablutions leisurely and weigh myself before I change into my day clothes, which are, with the weather turning brutally hot, beginning to look like beach wear.
I do lazy stretches and yoga postures on the mat for a brief warmup before going for my first 2,000 steps. If I don’t step up early enough I won’t be able to make my quota of 6,000 steps for the day. By the time Rosary time comes, at 6, I should have hit 4,000—the Rosary walk makes for the final 2,000.
After the warmup I take my first of eight big glasses of lemon water and feed the birds, now regular visitors at our bedroom window.
So much has happened and it’s not even 10; just about then my constant companion in lockdown, a later sleeper, emerges from the bedroom and joins me at the breakfast table. After nearly two months, his longish all-white wild hair has soft peaks like meringue before collapsing by around noon. He really could use a haircut.
And so can I! If we had the right scissors I’d dare. I do my own hair coloring at home, but what for now when my own daughter, due to allergy, has herself stopped having hers done? For the reverse reason, I couldn’t stop because my mom didn’t.
With no newspaper to read, Vergel turns to me, all ears: “So, what are we doing today?”
Aside from nothing? In truth, I have something planned. While more creative housewives would probably bake bread, I schedule a cutting of nails. An indignity at my age, it requires complete privacy, which is close to impossible locked down in a condo. There are only a few personal rituals I hope my husband would never have to see, and this is one of them.
Out of practice
This lockdown is forcing us to do what we once thought impossible. It’s do-it-yourself time for everybody—or take the consequences. Everything just seems harder, but only because we’re all out of practice. If they keep us in for longer we’re bound to get better.
We may, however, have to relearn some forgotten basic skills. As a young wife and mother, before I turned 21, I had to learn on the job, lest I disappoint do-it-all Lola Enchay. Five years in the United States, with three toddlers in preschool, I had to learn to sew and do alterations. I made my own maternity clothes for my fourth pregnancy and made lookalike clothes for me and my only daughter. I was totally unprepared to sew their school uniforms, too, but I did it! I was baking bread, making my own lasagna noodles and lumpia wrappers.
I’m lucky to have Lanie at this time, or I’d have to do much relearning—in old age. If I had been younger I’d probably have joined several housewives in Makati who have dug up family recipes and started cooking and baking again to take advantage of the huge demand for home-cooked meals—pies and cookies would have been it for me.
A Facebook group called “What’s cooking, Makati” has connected us to farmers who deliver fresh produce by Grab or Lalamove. I’m sure there’ll be other opportunities for networking from home. I patronize food deliveries within our Makati community; that way I get my order in less than an hour.
Next best thing
There’s a group of lady friends that exchanges poems and recipes online. Others form a choir and sing on Zoom. Many new ways are being discovered of staying connected and enriching each other’s lives in lockdown, and all these require electronic gadgets; they are the tools for the new normal, for connecting, for reading publications, for self-entertainment.
Zoom in particular bridges great and separate distances and puts together a good-sized crowd for meetings and group prayers, and is able to keep out the uninvited. It’s is the next best thing to being physically present. Simple enough to join and leave when you have to, without breaking up the party.
Right after breakfast my husband, in his latest virtual outing, sat in a home sofa as a resource person in a discussion of his lifetime profession—journalism. Once, replying to an invitation for a Zoom interview, he caught my eye and said on the phone, smiling at his own oncoming joke. “Let me check my calendar.” Aha, that would be my chance to grab some private time for my nail-cutting.
Doing a poor imitation of me, Vergel asked, not done just yet with the joke, “What should I wear?” Anything but those pajamas, I thought.
Lately, at around 6 p.m., I get my alert to join the Paterno family in a Zoom congregation for Rosary and novena for cousin Ninit’s daughter-in-law Jean, who had just passed away. I like that at this time—some of them, whom I rarely see, are Zooming from other parts of the world. Poor home Wi-Fi connection forces me to use my iPhone, instead of my laptop, for a wider screen. On the second day, I made it in, by the third mystery.
On one occasion it had skipped my mind that they could see me, too, and I had forgotten to make myself visibly, if still virtually, presentable.
How else could we be with family, somehow, most especially in grief and prayer, at this time? Until something better comes along, or this pandemic somehow ends, Zoom will have to do.