Experience Hoarding

On Thursday night, Steve and I drove through the hills of our town to take Ian to a cooking class run by a local organization that grows their own vegetables and teaches kids how to cook them. This particular class is aimed at older special ed kids. Ian, being on the boarder of special ed and typical, is higher functioning than anyone in the class, but he doesn’t mind. He’s just happy to get out of the house and do stuff.

After dropping Ian off at the “Health Barn,” we went to a local tavern; a nice dungeon-y sort of place with a fireplace, deep armchairs, and old pictures on the wall. We had an 1-1/2 hour date night there with wine for me and beer for Steve, a bowl of spicy mussels, and a fancy pizza with prochutto and arugula.

We couldn’t stop smiling. It was our first time sitting at a bar since February. It was our fist date night out without Ian in months, too; with his seizure issue, we haven’t felt comfortable leaving him home alone.

When the pandemic first hit, we hoarded food and home supplies. With empty shelves at the supermarket, we stocked up on toilet paper and paper towels when they were available. We filled our freezer with meat. And I set up a second pantry with canned goods down in the basement.

Now, we’ve eaten our way to the bottom of the freezer and brought the last can of black beans up the stairs. The mountain of toilet paper will last another few months. At some point, I’ll stock up on food again, but I don’t feel that pressure yet.

Right now, I’m hoarding experiences. We’re trying to do everything that might get taken away from us soon, like wine-tasting weekends with friends and spontaneous date nights in bars. We might fly an aunt up from Florida to stay with us for a month, because she’s terribly lonely. I am getting new contacts and keeping my hair in good shape. Steve’s sore tooth will be treated soon.

The college kids know that their days might be numbered, too, so they are appreciating every day away from prying parents and pesky siblings. There was another crime problem at Jonah’s school – an armed invasion of an off-campus college house — last week. Between the shoot out two weeks ago and this house invasion, he knows that we might yank him back home at any time, even if he doesn’t get COVID.

Even though COVID rates haven’t skyrocketed when they opened schools a month ago, the kids still have an abbreviated schedule. I imagine that school officials don’t believe that these rates will stay constant. The problems doesn’t seem to be originating at schools, but in certain communities with large multi-generational families crammed into small apartments, who also attend indoor religious or social gatherings.

Will those infection hot spots will spread the virus to the wider community? Will be back to the nightmare of March and April? I don’t think so. The masks seem to be working, and they are worn universally around here. Also, workers like Steve are staying at home, perhaps permanently, so they’re not breathing in fetid air on trains and subways or touching the buttons in elevators in office buildings. Still, nobody is sure.

Meanwhile, people are fortifying their homes at an almost frenetic pace. Contractors are cross and over-worked. Our contractor left before even putting new switch plates on the walls, after refinishing our downstairs family room. With zero hope of getting him back here, we had Ian finish the job for us. Not only are people doing big jobs, like putting on new roofs and replacing old windows, and repairing things that have broken with everyone at home, they are doing little jobs, too. We’re painting some old kitchens chairs and getting pictures framed. Our home has never looked better.

Why all this home improvement? Partially, it’s because we’re home looking at the problems every day. Partially, it’s because we’re bored. And partially, it’s because we’re worried during the long winter, we won’t have access to basic services and help again.

People who have had near death experiences say that they now look at life differently. They appreciate every day and take up new hobbies like skydiving and mountain climbing. I’m trying to do the same thing. I’m sucking the joy out of every day, because tomorrow… who knows?

17 thoughts on “Experience Hoarding

  1. I haven’t commented on the blog proper in a LOOOONG time, so this feels interesting!

    Is this the same reason why in early September some stores had Xmas decor out? Now ALL of them do, Kohls, Walmart, maybe not Target. People are home, they want to anticipate things, so, yeah, let’s bring out Xmas in September. Gotta go get ready to teach my online classes now!


  2. Laura wrote, “I am getting new contacts and keeping my hair in good shape.”

    I’m waiting for 5% positivity before I get my and my 2nd grader’s hair cut. Nobody at our house has had a professional cut in over 6 months. I was planning to do it in June, but then things went haywire

    “Will those infection hot spots will spread the virus to the wider community?”

    I was just pointing out to my husband last night that if the local viral reproduction number is about 1 (each person infects one other person), and given that bigger households offer excellent opportunities to infect 2-3-4+ people, that means that there is relatively little transmission happening in public spaces.

    We’ve also found that the college and the larger community are on essentially different COVID tracks, with the college vigorously pursuing the test-and-trace-and-quarantine strategy, whereas it just keeps burning along in the larger community. Not out of control, just kind of steadily smoldering, with occasional flare-ups–like right now 2-3 weeks out from Labor Day.

    “With zero hope of getting him back here, we had Ian finish the job for us.”

    Very nice! One of our COVID projects was my husband redoing a bulging (!) area of tile in our front entry. My next big paid project is going to be getting some painting done downstairs and in our front entry. I think a nice coat of white paint would help a lot to freshen things up. We have a lot of chipped and bubbly paint, and the previous owners liked a sort of dirty pink white a lot more than I do.

    Pre-COVID, I was emailing with an old friend from the Russian Far East who is now living in Moscow with a husband and preschooler that I’ve never met. We were discussing the possibility of a joint Disneyland trip with our families. She checked in with me a couple months into COVID, and I had to break it to her that travel to the US and Disney are just not a good idea for the foreseeable future. (My Russian friend is Type 1 diabetic and in any case, a 15-hour flight to the US is kind of dicey in the COVID era.)

    As soon as there’s a vaccine, I’m going to start talking to her again about Disney, because I think we all deserve it. I’ve also been talking to my brother and sister about doing a ski trip in WA, maybe early 2022? (My youngest child has never been to Disney or had a chance to ski.) These are BIG vacations that would require a lot of saving and planning, but I also keep thinking that we could pop down to San Antonio for a weekend with relatively little preparation, maybe Fall 2021?

    My husband and teenage son will probably do a bunch of climbing at this location once our college gym closes for the winter:



    1. bj said, “Nice, an outdoor climbing gym. Ours are all inside because the point is to have something to do when it rains.”

      We were toughing it out through the summer, trying to use the (slightly) less miserable mornings and evenings for outdoor activities, but we’ve finally got some cool/warm weather now. It’s really nice! My husband and 10th grader continue to enjoy their rollerblading and tennis.


  3. I flip psychologically between trying to enjoy the moment versus superstitiously believing that if I am extra special perfectly careful things will get better faster and back to normal.

    Enjoying the moment for me means going to the park when it is not pouring rain, buying flowers every week before the frost ends, sending kiddo off to college, letting younger kiddo socialize (distanced, but I’m not watching), a couple of distanced gatherings at home, which have been life-enhancing in ways that I wouldn’t have understood without doing them. No restaurants, because I am still too nervous.

    On the other hand, our 7day/100K infection rates are now approaching the best in the nation. For fun, I gathered together the NY Times data for the top 100 counties by population. My county is now 6th in the nation for that metric (ranked from best to worst). But I am still living pretty locked down.


    1. bj wrote, “No restaurants, because I am still too nervous.”

      We finally started going back to the cafeterias a couple of weeks ago. Normally, we eat our dinner there almost every day, but we’re going once or twice a week, which feels like a lot. We’ve mostly been either eating outside or out on the cafeteria balcony. During the latter dinner, I just couldn’t shut up about how perfect the weather was for it and how fantastic it was to be able to do it.

      We only managed one dinner in the college COVID tent meal cubicles, because it was so miserably dystopian to try to talk to each other through plexiglass dividers.

      The college has switched to handing out boxed versions of the meals. They’re getting reasonably good at it.


  4. We are terrible at home projects, but have set up multiple new spaces in our house. We are using our basement rec room for really the first time, have set up several seating areas outside, and high school kiddo now has several school from home spaces. I got a stow away desk from Battle Design Studio that kiddo likes quite a bit. He’s set it up with his back to the wall, in a configuration that I think of as a “boss” desk. We are now joking that it is his “resolute desk” (though, as a folding desk, it is obviously not).

    I want people here to talk about schools opening, and they are not. I watched much of a school board meeting and my feeling is that people are stuck waiting for the virus to go away (either by careful behavior or eventually a vaccine). I think we need to be making plans for a more chronic infection with occasional flair ups.


  5. Also, spouse and I have picked a book to read to each other. We’ve did this off and on in our pre-child lives (and when we traveled). I was reminded when we were traveling by train in Norway and a young couple was reading to each other. The book was in German, and I would occasionally be able to understand tidbits. Observing them reminded me of when spouse and I were younger.


  6. A friend who crashed at Jonah’s apartment last weekend just test positive. Jonah threw up a couple of days ago, and his test came back inconclusive. He’s getting another test. I bet he’s positive. He was supposed to come home tomorrow. That’s not happening now. So sad.


    1. Laura said, “A friend who crashed at Jonah’s apartment last weekend just test positive. Jonah threw up a couple of days ago, and his test came back inconclusive. He’s getting another test. I bet he’s positive. He was supposed to come home tomorrow. That’s not happening now. So sad.”



  7. I hope Jonah is better. And test results are rapid.

    For all that we are locked down, my husband went to Israel to care for his mom in July and August, and I just drove to Chicago to help siblings care for our mom. Ironically, two days after I got there, she went into rehab (knee surgery) and I couldn’t see her any more. Stuck around another week to see whether she’d need help moving back to her assisted living, but no, she’s staying in the rehab place a couple more weeks. It was odd to see my brother, sisters, nieces, and all, backyard bonfires and garage roof patios — everything outside. One sister has a downstairs flat that’s her daughter’s (who is away at college), so I could stay there.

    It’s become a longer drive from MN — I don’t know if that’s COVID and Wisconsin is terrifying, or just that I was doing it on my own, or that I hadn’t been out of MN in 7 months? It was a good break and then I was glad to get home — it’s the best fall colors right now.

    We looked at an old Winnebago a couple of weeks ago. It’s dropped in price since then, but it just didn’t speak to us. It felt like driving blindly without any safety features! Maybe another time.

    We also put in a new porch and steps and railing — our contractor called when he found wood (which is in very short supply) and said we had to decide then and there if we wanted to go forward. It’s lovely.

    Finally, even though I’ve been teaching online 10 years, this semester is really awful. I’m so used to teaching students who want to be online, who chose that option. This fall – it’s all kids who really want to be away and are stuck at home and doing comp while they wait for life to get back to normal. I don’t want to tell them that they might get through comp II and their lit electives before that happens.


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