Friday, April 24, 2020

What I did on my Spring Break: Guest Post by Claudia Long

Claudia H. Long:
What I did on my Spring Break

For my unplanned three-month Spring Break I peeled the paint off the bannister. Seriously, every time I go by the bannister that runs next to and down the stairs in my house I stop and peel the paint a bit with my thumbnail. Sometimes I got a nice long piece, and I wave it triumphantly, and other times little chips come off that I try to distinguish from chips of my nail.

My adult son, who’s sheltering with us, having come to visit before the orders hit, has joined the peeling brigade and has added sports-like competitive rules: no using implements to start a peel, all peels must be tallied in piles…I’ve added that all peels and chips must be swept up and tossed before one of the three dogs sheltering with us (he brought his flatulent, ancient dog on the visit) eats them.

I have the advantage of ambidexterity.

All this is to relieve the anxious tedium of the quarantine, of course. I am far away from the rest of the extended family in New York, one of whom suffered with the virus, another of whom died just as the pandemic began. I’m unable to visit my much-nearer very-pregnant daughter who is single-handedly caring for her toddler while her husband works multiple shifts as a firefighter paramedic. I’m watching my work-from-home dwindle along with my toilet paper stack. And so I find solace in the mindless activity on the stairs.

I need an escape from the horrors of the news: the death counts, reminiscent of body counts during the Vietnam War; the political folly; the heartless cruelties of the powerful; the endless compassion of many; the failure of compassion of the few; the judgments of the self-righteous; the smugness of the secure; the intemperateness of the insecure; the pain of the threatened. I am useless to others, “saving lives by staying home” seems so lame. There are days that I drown in the fear that we will give up too soon. And days when I fear that this will never end.

But I can go in either direction, at any given time.

We have it so much better than so many. We live in the safety and rationality of California. We shut down early, we are spread out in an area that keeps us easily social-distancing, we have more than enough food, there’s light, good weather, electricity, clean water, green hills, birds, flowers, plenty of love. And I have a long stairway with a bannister that ten years ago, during the last recession, I failed to sand sufficiently, and painted with latex paint over an old oil-based undercoat. In this shelter-in-place, the latex has finally given up its hold, and has offered itself to me as consolation for my malaise.

My pile of paint peels is growing. It’s spring, and summer is coming. We can do this. The advantage of ambidexterity is not to be underestimated.
Claudia Long is the author of Nine Tenths of the Law (Kasva Press, 2020) Josefina's Sin (Atria/ Simon & Schuster) The Duel for Consuelo (Five Directions Press) The Harlot's Pen (Devine Destinies) Chains of Silver (Five Directions Press) Follow her on
Nine Tenths of the Law was just released on Kindle and will release in paperback on May 7. In 1939, a beautiful enameled heirloom menorah was looted by the Nazis, grabbed from the hands of its young Jewish owner. Too beautiful to kill, Aurora herself was singled out by the SS for "special duties." Eighty years later, Aurora's daughters Zara and Lilly discover the family menorah in a New York museum. Haunted by their mother's buried memories, the sisters scheme to get it back--but their quest takes a dangerous turn when the menorah disappears, leaving a train of murder and mayhem behind it. Aurora's memories, it turns out, are very much alive...and now her secrets can bind the sisters together or tear them apart.

1 comment:

Jane R said...

So very well-said. This encapsulates so many concerns and thoughts we all have. I love the bannister competition. Reminds me of one summer when my daughter kept count of the number of scorpions she spotted. It's good to have distractions. thanks for a great article!