By Leslie Lindsay
I’m a sucker for houses and homes and architecture. As a child, I grew up with an interior decorator mother. I watched as she made her own patterns, designed draperies, throw pillows, bed skirts, even the canopy to my bed.
For me, though, the passion found it’s way into interiors–the structure of a place–the lines, the shape, colors, patterns, and placement of furnishings, accessories, etc. It became a way for me to contain and understand my mother’s erratic moods and behaviors. Most of the time, especially when I was younger, she was fairly balanced. When I was ten, she devolved into psychosis, never to be the same. It was at this juncture in my life, that I leaned on art and architecture as a coping mechanism. I began sketching children’s spaces at an early age. Alcoves. Study spaces. Book nooks. Play rooms. This morphed into floor plans of traditional two-story homes, ones I created model names for (The Oakwood, for example was my signature model, but there were others, too). All throughout high school, I escaped into this tidy world of straight lines and pencils, images of structures blossoming in my mind’s eye. For awhile, I thought I’d be an architect. But math terrified me.
More than thirty years later, I am still enraptured with architecture and design. And so, too apparently, are my young teenagers. This piece, a parenting essay I wrote, appears in Motherwell’s “Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus,” but I thought I’d share it with you, too. I encourage you to pop over to their website. If you have a story, a list, a reflection, journal entry, submit it. Comment and engage with the other stories. You may glean a little something in this troubling time. There is comfort in art and storytelling.
PARENTING IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS:
by Leslie Lindsay
On a Friday afternoon, I pick up my high school daughter from track practice. She is flush with palpable energy, radiating youth and vigor. “Mom,” she says climbing into the car, “I wanted a break from this endless cycle of school and track, and sleep, but not like this.”
I nod. I know.
“Some of the girls from my team were in tears, the seniors mostly,” she continues, “Their last track season is being cut short; it’s a big deal.”
It’s Friday-the-thirteenth, a historically auspicious date. Ladders and black cats, full moons, and now, the start of a national pandemic as Covid-19 sweeps the nation. Our governor released a statement earlier in the day indicating no gatherings of one thousand or more. He highly encouraged no more than two-hundred-and-fifty individuals congregating in one location. School is out, indefinitely. We had just moved our clocks forward, allowing more daylight to pierce the sky, lengthening our days, a sure sign that the dread, the bleakness of winter, was coming to a halt.
Also, in the car, is my youngest daughter, a seventh grader. She says, “Can we do something about this? I want to make a poster.”
And I think: a poster? The Face of Corona?
“I want to make a list,” she continues. “Of all the things we can do while we’re at home.”
I nod, thinking this a good, proactive thing to do in a time of unease.
“I want to write big,” she says.
This speaks to self-efficacy, to being a leader, a helper; that she has something to say. There’s a bit of altruism here, because she rattles off some ideas like bake cookies and give to friends and play the guitar for us.
“And models, mom!” says my oldest daughter.
“Models?” I immediately visualize the violating sphere we’ve all seen on media outlets, the one that burrows into our DNA if inhaled and causes fatal symptoms. I think of a golf ball spiked with tiny golf tees, a ring of darkness encircling the mass. I imagine purchasing foam balls and golf tees. “You want to make a model of the coronavirus?” I say?
“No, no,” they laugh.
I’m driving, cautious. Traffic is dense. Pinched, worried drivers grip steering wheels. The suburbs swell with tension. “What then?” I ask.
“Houses,” they say. “We want to make models of homes, like we did at Architecture Camp that one summer.”
“Okay,” I say.
“So we need stuff. Foam core and popsicle sticks. A ton of glue.”
Quickly, I make a few adjustments to my route. At the craft store, the girls map out what they need: transparent sheets for windows, balsa wood, reflective paper for a faux-stainless steel look, small plants for creating landscapes, fabric remnants for tiny pillows, curtains, sofa cushions, pipe cleaners for curtain rods and spiral staircases. They spend eighty bucks, splitting it between the two of them. My youngest daughter says, “No more. I’m going to go broke building this house.”
There’s something tender and innocent about this—it’s the pulse of human experience, the peculiar off-edges of a collective panic that have touched us all. And is it ironic that we are constructing miniature shelters while we are quarantined?
At the craft store, I cough. The store manager raises an eyebrow.
The next day, the girls spend five hours cutting foam core. They glue hundreds of popsicle sticks to the floor of their models, then sand and paint. Viola—wood floor!
My youngest daughter says, “I’m going to make window boxes and fill them with pretty flowers.” She does. She makes French doors she likens to a jail cell. She wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Now, two days into the pandemic, our governor has ordered no gatherings of more than fifty people, preferably only ten.
Meanwhile, my husband and I scroll our phones, seeking updates, safety measures. We work from home. We formulate schedules and rules for keeping everyone, including a lumbering basset hound, on track. We know we need a sense of purpose in this uncertain time, a sense of normalcy. He devises the “Family Decathlon Challenge,” a five-day event, each day filled with two ‘contests’ we compete in as a family. The first day is a 50-yard sprint and a game of Googly Eyes. Track girl wins the sprint, no surprise. My husband can barely breathe, stopping before he reaches the finish line.
“Shortness of breath is a symptom of Corona,” our seventh grader says.
“It’s also a symptom of being middle-aged,” he huffs.
The next day is a Frisbee-throwing contest and Uno.
A memory matching game along with a Foosball tournament was our most recent family challenge. We’re not done yet, because like early parenthood, these days pass in a blur; the days are long, but the weeks are short. We don’t know who will come in first place and win the fifty-dollar gift card we promised. The girls are both thinking it’ll be them.
Back to the houses they go. Constructing, painting, discussing. Eight days since the first announcement, the governor signs an order for ‘Shelter in Place.’ We cannot leave our residences with the exception to walk dogs, shop for food, or pick up medication from the pharmacy.
At dusk, I walk our basset hound. I receive texts from my oldest daughter: “Raspberry-colored walls or deep teal?” She sends images of paint swatches.
From my walk, I spot houses lit up from inside, yellow lights emanating from darkened windows, the movement of life, the flicker of a television.
“Raspberry,” I text back. “You already have green in the bathroom. Teal is too similar.”
A boy and his dog are in their front yard. The dog waggles his tail, giddy for interaction. I wave. I cannot stop and rub that dog behind his ears, which pains me. From a distance, along the trail that loops behind, I snap an artistic photo of that house, its majestic backside reflected in a nearby pond, the lights from within skimming the surface of the water. I find it comforting, nurturing, even, that our neighbors are home, in the confines of their shelter while we create own miniature eternities.
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Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead Chapel, Common Ground Review, Cleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The Waking, Brave Voices Literary Magazine, Manifest-Station, and others. She has been awarded as one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.
~Updated, 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon!~
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