Ashley Sands is the author of the upcoming Audible Originals production, A Terribly Private Club, which is available for pre-order here: https://adbl.co/2Tj6soh
“Coming to you live from my childhood home…” starts half the podcasts I’ve listened to lately.
I was visiting my family when shelter-in-place orders started to go into effect, so I inadvertently am part of this Great Millennial Exodus. The days during coronavirus at my parents’ home on Lake Cooley blend together, my memories clipped dispatches defined by vague goals I set to keep my sanity:
I. Attempt to make sure my partner is okay quarantining alone in SF.
Today he Facetimes me and is wearing no clothes.
“Where are your clothes?”
“I’m out.” He shrugs and resumes making his morning smoothie. “Everything’s dirty.”
We discuss him leaving the city. Is it even safe for him to fly? Maybe he will drive across the US, he says, pitching a tent each night and eating only Snickers.
Why only Snickers? “Why not at least Nutri-grain bars?” The conversation devolves.
II. Attempt to be helpful.
I read that the hospital needs mask donations, so I scavenge scraps of cloth and pull out the Brother sewing machine my parents gifted me at sixteen in support of my teenage dream to be a fashion designer. Half an hour and some garbled fabric later, I remember why this aspiration hit a dead end.
III. Attempt to get my parents to take social distancing seriously.
My father insists on keeping his weekly Mobile Meals delivery route, but otherwise, my parents agree to stay home and let me get supplies. Until they don’t.
Dad cracks first. I manage to talk him down from his “urgent errands” until one day, I’m FaceTiming with my nudist when I hear tires peel out of the driveway.
A few days later, my mother disappears.
We get a call from an unknown number. “Hi, it’s me. I’m at the hairdresser and can’t figure out how the car windows work. They’re all down.”
“But it’s raining!” my dad yelps. And we’re off for today’s adventure.
IV. Attempt to establish a routine.
Mine so far: Wake up. Walk neighborhood (clocked at 2 miles). Field emails from book tour that is slowly getting cancelled. Stress. Try to write next novel but instead scroll through online news and Twitter. Self-loathing. Walk past mother watching cable news, which in inexplicably bad taste has a body count ticking on the side of the screen. Nope. Attempt to do an online Zoom fitness class. Quit after ten minutes and hope no one notices. Text amateur epidemiological assessments to friends.
V. Attempt to ward off hypochondria.
Mom calls me to her bedroom. I find her, shades drawn, lying cocooned under several blankets.
“I’m freezing and have the chills. It’s happening,” she whispers, eyes closed. “Can you take my temperature? I’m too weak.”
A few minutes later, I hear the double beep of the thermometer. “97.3.”
An hour later, I find her recovered and back to cable news coverage.
VI. Attempt to Relax?
I paddle a kayak out to the middle of the lake and rock back on my forth for almost an hour, finding the motion soothing. Out here, I can pretend the world isn’t on fire. I wonder when there will be news, some certainty of how we proceed from here.
Until then, coming to you live from my childhood home.
Ashley Sands is the author of the upcoming Audible Originals production, A Terribly Private Club (July 2020). Prior to pursuing writing full-time, Sands had a career spanning over a decade in the art world. Most recently, she was the events manager at Hub City Bookshop, and she currently organizes author tours for Hub City Press. Raised in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, she currently lives and writes in San Francisco.