No, I am not talking about the Charles Dickens classic.
I am sure that many optimists like me looked forward to something good happening after quarantine, aside of course from keeping the virus at bay. Yes, we had fears and apprehensions. But some of us dared hope that some kind of prize or surprise awaited at the other end. I guess we wanted to look on the bright side.
When I was growing up, I always heard my mother and her sisters consoling one another during bad times. No hay mal que por bien no venga. I heard it often during the war.
When the lockdown was imposed, we felt instant anxiety. But once the shock had settled in and we were done with our emergency supplies lists, didn’t you wonder what it would be like, staying home with no prospect of sneaking away for God knows how long? The restrictions came suddenly and the thought of being in close quarters even with your own family was unnerving for some. I know a couple who were horrified at the idea.
Didn’t you give some thought to how this forced confinement would affect your relationship with the people at home? Even the happiest couple treasures “their own time, their own space.” Doesn’t too much closeness become stifling? They say that familiarity breeds contempt.
What did you think would happen living in close quarters, 24/7 and with no end in sight? What would it be like, day in and day out seeing the same faces, hearing the same voices?
For me, from my casita it looked like a joyful prospect.
I have a friend in Quezon City who was excited that she was “trapped” with a daughter, son-in-law and their two children who were stuck in Manila while on spring break from school in California. The couple was not worried about their jobs. It was force majeure, an act of God. Apparently, all contracts take a back seat and bow to that clause.
They have since gone back and my friend misses their presence in her home. She says it was her best time ever. “I was worried about it,” she confessed. “But it was wonderful. My daughter and I spent hours just talking, way into the wee hours. Her husband was considerate. Understanding. And he was so useful in the house doing chores and minor repairs. I had no helpers and their American ‘do it yourself’ lifestyle saved the day.”
Some elderly people were home alone with no one there to assuage their fears. I can’t even imagine their sadness. And I am deeply grateful.
Our immediate reaction to the lockdown was total disbelief, something akin to panic. The first thought was: “You mean I can’t go out? At all? And if I do, will I get the virus and die? What happens to my job? What if I’m a carrier? Do I need to be tested?”
And the thought of a rude interruption of our regular schedules was beyond disturbing for some. What happens to Zumba, the trips to the hair salon? What, no golf? No weekend at the beach?
I missed my Sunday routine the most. I started with church. Then it was lunch with my children, grand- and great-grandkids at my son’s condo. Dessert over, we stayed and talked, and soon merienda time came, and sometimes we stayed for dinner. That was our “old normal.” Is it gone now?
I asked my second daughter how her life changed. She and her husband are almost empty nesters, with only their youngest son at home. She has a busy family. But the lockdown came and “we stayed home, and the three of us had every meal together. It was great. It was amazing to work from home without having to battle traffic.”
My youngest in Florida closed her business and sheltered at home with her husband and both daughters. Her son-in-law is a front-liner and had to stay away. She tells about their great conversations. “We had a full and noisy house, as usual.” Last week when she went to sanitize her salon prior to reopening, she says, “I felt weird to be by myself.”
There’s a rumor that Metro Manila could go back to stricter measures. I hope not.
This brightened my day
I have been watching the congressional hearings. Don’t ask me why. But after I do, I need air or a mouthwash, anything at all to refresh my mind, lighten my mood.
But just as I am starting to get depressed and negative about the world, I read a story.
Espiridion de la Peña and his wife Feby live with their three children in Dubai. He is an out-of-work expat. Their motto in life is: “You don’t have to be rich to do something good for someone else. Whatever little you have, you can share.”
They have been spending part of their skimpy grocery budget to cook meals for strangers on the street and have been feeding as many as 200 in one day.
We live in times of fear and anxiety, surrounded by hatred, bigotry and violence. But two Pinoys, far from home, show us love and restore our waning faith in people.
And the words of the great Mahatma Gandhi come to mind: You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean. If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.