Working from Home


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Day one of the new normal, we’re all social distancing and working from home. Kids are off school, and for two weeks won’t have organized, assigned, and required work while the district scrambles to figure out how they are going to manage this. Daughter snaps and facetimes and texts her friends; they making video diaries (I think) of all this. Probably for YikYak. My son is playing video games with his friends online, and I wish sometimes he was a little more embarrassed about the things he feels comfortable saying in front of his mother. This window into an 11yo’s mind is a little too much sometimes.

Bright side, he has gladly agreed to stay off his XBox and limit his use of wifi while I am hosting webinars, because, as I explained to him, it would be like when his game glitches or there is framerate lag. He explained it to a friend today thusly: “Because it will suck if I don’t get off and it’s her job so it can’t suck. I’ll be back later.” This is the most willing he has ever been to abandon the video games online, but I guess I managed to communicate my needs in a way that he understood.

My daughter is on day two of a headache that has moved into her shoulders. It’s stress, I tell her, because that’s what it is, since she’s drinking enough water, washed her hair, and slept enough last night. Heat and deep breathing. Pull your shoulders down from up by your ears. As I say it, I do the same. I’m hoping her dance studio puts the lessons/classes online like they said they were going to, if only so she’ll stretch because someone else said to do it, someone not her mother.

Swimming is done for two weeks, at least. They’re going to keep paying us, which is the least of my worries, but at the same time I’m grateful that it’s one less thing we have to think about. I’m going to send out dry land exercises to everyone, but I know my son won’t be pursuaded to do any of them. If I can just get him to stretch his feet (he can’t point his toes his ankle tendons are so tight) every day, then I’ll consider it a win.

The dog just enjoys the company and someone to sit with him on the couch while he sleeps.

I’ve set up my new home office. Our old flatscreen TV, large but now seems small, sits on a desk in our room. We’ve got an old apple TV, a DVD player, and apple mini hooked up to it, and now it serves as a second monitor. Behind me is an ironing board, the bed (which I actually made today – you win, COVID-19, at getting me to do something my mother never could), and in the distance, my dresser, where, if you look carefully enough if you happen to be in a video meeting with me, my recently-arrived stuffed Baby Yoda (I will not call it The Child) sits peaking just over my shoulder.

Saturday morning I had a weekend webinar, and couldn’t do it in my bedroom, given it would be awkward to have my husband snoring in the immediate background. I settled in my son’s room, where I have recorded many podcast episodes, on a old, folding TV dinner table that I inherited from my grandparents. It was a set of four, now only two remain. When I was young, there were two permanently unfolded, one in front of each of my grandparents’ respective chairs. These were the kinds of chairs that weighed a ton, where soft and hard at the same time, filled with heavy metal frames and gears that allowed for a small number of positions. My grandparents ate most of their meals in those chairs, off those tables, and when they weren’t eating, the were set slightly aside, with my grandfather’s holding his daily crossword puzzle and his crossword puzzle dictionary, while my grandmother’s held at one time her cigarettes and ashtray, in another time, magazines and books she was reading or looking through to find inspiration for her painting.

When we were young, if we stopped by for lunch or were staying with my grandmother during a school holiday, we would bring out the other two tables and get to eat in front of the tv, on the couch, while watching TV with her. This was a luxury as we weren’t allowed to eat meals in the living room and watch TV at home. The one exception was Saturday mornings, where we could watch cartoons while eating dry cereal straight from the box, or slices of white bread straight from the bag. One card table lives next to the desk, holding the printer. The other floats from room to room as needed; my daughter used it sometimes to do homework or use her sewing machine. One time, she set it up in our room to do work while we watched a movie.

In some ways, my son’s room is better than mine, as the angle where I have to keep the laptop only reveals two paintings, one by my mom and one by my grandmother, on his wall beside his bed, where I sit cross-legged during the meetings. The people in the meetings and webinars don’t see the piles of stuffed lions lurking immediately out of frame, or the photographs my brother took that also adorn his walls. But I am grateful that my son has a fan in his room making a decent level of white noises, so that I don’t have to wear my headphones all the time.

But I need two screens and a better seat than a bed to work, so this morning I get the set up complete and am back to two screens in the bedroom. The desk I’m working on is a desk my grandfather found, restored and refinished, and then gifted to me one year for my birthday. I was young, certainly still in single-digits. I’ve had this desk, then, for over 30 years. I did homework, cried, raged, wrote, read, and talked on the phone on this desk. It used to have a giant month-by-month calendar on it where I would mark important dates like swim meets and parties and birthdays, with a cork board behind it on my wall, where I kept everyone’s phone number and other things scattered all over it. I knew where people’s phone numbers were by where they were spacially on the board. While the desk didn’t come with me to university, the cork board did, and I maintained that same tradition of phone number placement among other things of all kinds.

If I angle the laptop camera just right, you can see another painting by my grandmother, over in the corner above what I have turned into my vanity/make-up area. It is of a girl, reading in a barn. The girl is blond, like me, and although I grew up in the suburbs, never owned a straw hat, and was deathly allergic to most things growing or living on a farm, my grandmother gave me the painting immediately when she was done, saying that it was for me. Maybe it was was her when she had been my age at the time, both of us so similar in the way we look, but I never asked.

I am grateful that I have these pieces of people who have meant so much to me here in this space during these uncertain times. My grandmother’s art looks over me, while my grandfather’s desk holds up. Creativity and craft and work. My grandfather was always, always working. My grandmother, after she had quit smoking, was always, always painting. Creativity and craft and work and love. It is how they showed love to me and to us. They lived through the Depression, through La Grande Noireur in Quebec, through WWII, through some of the most rapid changes in Quebec culture and life, through the dawn of a new millenium. I’m not sure if either of them could have imgagined, though, times like these. But I know they would carry on, with creativity and craft and work and love. And so do I.

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