Shiny, Happy, People in Quarantine

Like so many of the other happy, well-adjusted, quarantining families you’ve been seeing on Facebook, mine has been busy learning new skills, in between hyper-productive Zoom school sessions, socially distanced dog walks (timed to hit just the perfect sunset for a family selfie), and of course, taking advantage of this extra time to bond. What a gift!

Like your kids, mine have been wanting to try cooking. So we watched a selection of chefs on YouTube and decided to try our hand at a few very basic recipes, beginning with Julia Child’s famous Boeuf Bourguignon. It’s a three page recipe. So we gave ourselves a full hour (the key is to clean as you go).

As you can see, it’s a little rough around the edges. My daughter was upset that it wasn’t perfect, but my son, always a big supporter of hers, consoled her and told her what a great sister she is: “There’s no one I’d rather quarantine with than you!” he exclaimed, holding an index finger up to say, you’re number one.

Well, that turned the frown upside down. Once we were done with the pleasantries (about forty minutes), poetry-writing, and our meditation moment, we moved on to our next recipe. Baked Alaska.

Believe me. I know. We’re all a little embarrassed by this one. We didn’t have a proper blowtorch and my kids didn’t want to put undo duress on Amazon warehouse workers or our postal service person (who we always give a few squirts of Purell before sliding him a slice of pie under the gate). So we had to come up with a home hack — we held up lighter to the TV during one of Trump’s press conferences (yup, gas fire).

We were bummed about the Baked Alaska. But once I promised I wouldn’t share any photos on social media, my kids seemed to bounce back. After we wrapped up one of our hug-it-out sessions, I ran a quick errand (it doesn't take me long to bring fully cooked meals to our elderly neighbors— aside from them going on and on about my friendly children and our always quiet beagle brothers), and before I knew it, the kids had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, gathered all the leftovers they could find in the fridge, and whipped up a couple of fun desserts (only for looking of course. Try as I might, I can’t get them to indulge in sugar.)

Don’t tell. But I pulled my homemade mask (we gave all our N95s to grocers and other front line workers) down just long enough to have a little nibble. And, you guessed it. It was just as sweet as the kids!

There was a little time to kill while my wife was slicing the Turducken (she always says, “It’s the plucking that’s hard, the slicing is a treat”), so I challenged my kids to see if they could bake/build a tower of Macarons (and no leaning Tower of Pisa allowed, even though the kids have been reading up on Italy and brainstorming ways to be supportive of that country’s strained health system). At first, they were like, “Daddy, we can’t make it. It’s too hard.” (They get a little snippy on days when they feel like their carbon footprint has been higher than need-be.) I just gave them that look I’ve been giving them over and over during our quality family quarantine time—the one that says, Sometimes, at dusk, when I’m clapping for the health workers, I’m also secretly clapping for you…

Twenty minutes after I was saying, “I bet it’s doable with a little sibling teamwork,” they told me to uncover my eyes, and I was “See, you fucking nailed it!” (Of course, edited out the F word part. Can you imagine…?)

After dinner, the kids took their baths, brushed their teeth, got into their jammies, rechecked the next day’s homework, and came back upstairs for our family TV time. My son was like, “Mom, Dad, can we watch that Frontline episiode on the pandemic again?” I gave in when my daughter begged too. They always get me when they work together.

Instead of a bedtime story, I agreed to let the kids learn one new hobby before lights out, so they could feel like it was a productive day. I suggested they build a house of cards. Can you believe it, they hadn’t even heard of doing that. They seemed to get the hang of it pretty quick. Sometimes I wish I could take off my pandemic mask so they could see me smile!

Just after I snapped a photo, our kitty came over and couldn’t resist rubbing her face against one of the cards, and, yup, you guessed it, the whole thing toppled down. Oh, how we laughed and laughed.

I asked the kids if they wanted to rebuild—maybe try something a little harder? But they reminded me that they had to get up a couple hours before school and get back to 3d printing personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses at the hospital in the next town over (we already stocked the ones in our municipality).

And now the house is quiet. My wife and I are taking turns reading aloud to one another from Sapiens, content with our lives, just loving our kids, and looking forward to tomorrow. Our sourdough starter will finally be ready and we’re making bread for the homeless!

In addition to being the pefect parent, Dave Pell writes NextDraft, where he covers the day’s news (which, if you read between the lines, has been pretty darn great lately).

I write NextDraft, a quick and entertaining look at the day’s most fascinating news.