The other night, I found a large bottle of Lysol in my bed. This is not some fringe COVID-19 disinfectant method (that I know of!). No, someone in my family tucked the Lysol down at the foot of my bed as a prank.
Seven weeks (eight? four hundred?) into Gov. Tony Evers’s “Safer at Home” order, my world has shrunk to the size of our small bungalow. My husband is hunkered down in the basement, trying to teach his classes online. My daughters are upstairs, doing schoolwork or watching TikToks or fighting over toothpaste – sometimes, I believe, all at once. We are healthy. We are safe. We are howling at the moon.
Our normal schedule has gone cattywumpus. We all go to bed at around 1 a.m. and wake up at various times ranging from 8 a.m. to approximately dusk. Under zero supervision, my children concoct their own strange brunches – pale, seafoam green mixtures of avocados and hardboiled eggs; mini-pizzas topped with canned pineapple, pickles: whatever they can find in the bright, emptying refrigerator.
Just this morning, I got a text from my seventeen-year-old. “MOM. COME UP HERE. HURRY. QUICK THERE’S A HUGE WORM IN MY BED I NEED YOU OH NO HURRY HURRY COME GET IT!” I raced upstairs to find her, cocooned in her blankets, wriggling like a worm and laughing hysterically.
The other day, I walked past my younger daughter’s bedroom and heard her muttering, “Hello. Hellllooooo. Hell-ooooo.” I knocked softly, opened the door. She was sitting on the floor, staring at the dog, who was staring back, confused.
“What are you doing?” I asked. She shrugged. “I’m teaching the dog to talk.”
My husband and daughters are engaged in an escalating battle of hide-the-toothbrushes. (“You’ll never find it this time!” I hear nightly. I can only hope they do.) The other day, my older daughter played a ring tone on her phone and then handed me a banana. “Mom,” she said. “It’s for you.” I made tea last night and brought empty cups to everyone. “Be careful!” I said, blowing on them. “Hot, hot, hot!”
Like everyone else, I’m carrying a lot of grief these days. Every morning I wake up and feel a disorientation I can hardly describe: for a moment, the sun is shining through my window and everything is normal, happy … and then, with a jolt of psychic whiplash, I remember where we are, what the world is, the devastations, large and small, with which we are reckoning. Some days it takes me a couple of hours to feel even a little bit like myself again.
But in my weird little snow globe of a house, the four of us, in mutual, silent agreement, have ramped up the lunacy to a level that is somehow, I think, keeping us sane.
Lauren Fox of Shorewood is the author of “Days of Awe” and other novels. Her fourth novel, from Knopf, is expected February 2021.