The television blares news of the coronavirus but cousin McKinsley isn’t worried. She just wants to color and play dolls with her college senior babysitter.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On my last physical day of college, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
I left early for a promising job interview in a beautiful new city, where my boyfriend also lives. I skipped out early for my trip and spring break, but I had no idea that this would be the last time I would see my friends on campus or have a normal day of school.
I had no idea any of this would happen.
Two weeks later, I’m back at my parents’ house. The job prospect is on hold. So is moving. Now I’m babysitting my toddler cousin McKinsley while finishing college online and navigating a new kind of family closeness.
At home, we aren’t doing anything unusual. My parents coexist in the living room; my mom is on a group call with her coworkers as my dad flips between news channels. In the kitchen, my brother is finishing baking an èclair pie. I can hear my grandparents next door talking on their back porch.
As the cliche goes, it’s quiet. Too quiet. It’s quiet in our house, when it feels like the world outside is on fire.
Now my mom is back to work as a pediatric nurse. She faces the disease from the front lines. Daily, she comes in contact with patients and doesn’t know if one of them could be sick.
My dad is on another front as a small business owner. His equipment rental company was busy when people first left work, but now the stream of customers has turned into a trickle. No one wants to risk going into public.
In 24 hours, our county’s ordered shelter-in-place command goes into effect. Our city is shuttered for the foreseeable future. Our family business must close, and my dad watches the news to keep up with the small business loans President Trump has promised. That might be his only option to reopen once all of this is over.
Every day, the entire family sits down to watch the president’s press conference. As a journalism student, I’m used to being consumed by the media, but it’s strange to see my usually politically apathetic teenage brother glued to the TV.
I try not to think about what I’m forced to miss out on, but it’s hard. Last Friday was supposed to be my last sorority formal, and right now I should be, would be, talking about the great night with my friends. Instead, I’m teaching colors and shapes to my cousin.
I try to block out the disappointment and fear to focus on what comes next.
My brother is a senior in high school and has just started his online classes. Just as my last college rites have been canceled, so have his. He hasn’t really talked about how he’s feeling, but I know the loss of his senior prom and his own graduation must sting.
Until this is over, we’re happy to be safe together. We wait for all of this to blow over. There’s nothing else to do, besides wash our hands.