Lately, I’ve been seeing this phrase, “Alone Together.” It certainly captures the feeling that we get as we are all forced to work from home by COVID 19, some of us by ourselves, and some of us with family. My husband is an essential worker (he’s a PhD Biochemist working to keep our food supply safe), and our son lives in Miami with his wife and two daughters. That means I’m home alone during most of my waking hours. I am very lucky, because we haven’t downsized yet. I really can’t imagine living in a studio apartment right now. My house has four floors and 10 rooms, not counting bathrooms, but including the basement laundry/gym. I have plenty of roaming space, but I haven’t figured out the best place to work. I haven’t spent much time on the top floor, even though there are two desks there.
This week, I have spent most of my time on the main floor: kitchen, dining room, living room and our screened-in/glassed-in porch (not included in the room count above, but on a sunny cold day, it’s my favorite “room” in the house). I’m keeping a pile of work stuff on a corner of the dining room table.
My dining room has become my office today. There are still fresh flowers from our 2-person plus iPad guests seder a week ago. Some of my favorite art is in this room. I can see a weeping cherry in my neighbor’s yard, its drooping branches strung with bright pink buds. I look around and see many objects that immediately bring memories of their previous owners and/or the people who gifted these. These are my thoughts: “My mother bought this cool artist-painted plate for me.” “My mother-in-law loved the silver samovar that came from her in-laws, and she kept the brass bee-hive container on her coffee table for many years.” “My grandmother loved the luster-ware tea set that I can see in the corner cabinet.” I am armchair traveling to their homes in Cincinnati, OH and Milford, PA. I see my wedding china and crystal, from 1978, very modern in its day. I remember that one of my mother’s friends asked my mother if I really wanted such simplicity when I could have something fancy for the same amount of money. Yep, my mother always said that if you had $5, buy the best quality handkerchief rather than the cheapest blouse. I look around the room as I write this and I realize that I am not alone, but I am with my family even though they and their photos are not here.
I feel very privileged in my beautiful home, not just because I have a home with electricity, running water, and a roof that doesn’t leak, when so many in the world do not have a safe space like mine, but also because I feel solidarity with those who are protecting society by staying home, even if they have just one room and not many. I feel alone and together. Together with my predecessors, with my office, and together with those who may be getting a little restless at this point as we stay safe at home, alone.