This weekend, traditionally the start of the warm season in the northern U.S., I’m engaging in an annual ritual I used to enjoy: putting away the winter clothes and getting out the summer ones. But this time around, it feels like another chore I loathe – scrubbing floors, polishing windows, cleaning the cat’s litterbox.
Yesterday I whined about it to a friend – how boring it was, how it felt as if I’d just boxed up the damned winter clothes and put them into the basement, how sick I was of doing the same effing thing over and over and… He responded with a platitude about the cyclical nature of life, to which I replied with some version of, “Yeah, I know…” and shut my mouth. I could not figure out why the task was driving me crazy, when normally I put on some music, sing along, dance a bit, and get it done as quickly as I can.
I knew that my reluctance, my sour mood, had something to do with the pandemic we’re all trying to survive. It was only this morning, day 2 of the Moving the Clothes Project, that I understood: the pleasure’s in my head, reliving the past and imagining the future, not in the chore itself. In a normal year, I say goodbye to my fall and winter shirts and corduroys with cheerful memories of Christmas and New Year’s Eve visits, snowshoe walks with my women’s outdoor recreation club, a compliment from a co-worker about that blouse with the snowflake pattern…
But my winter travel plans were upended and my paid work’s been sporadic (see March 17 blog post). Not even 3 weeks after I’d returned to work after helping to settle my injured mother into a nursing rehab facility, the owners and managers of the mixed-use building in which my office is located closed because of the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines to prevent coronavirus spread. As most of the building houses retail and food businesses, this was necessary. I’ve been grateful to keep my part-time job and be able to work at home on a good laptop in a spacious apartment with a huge backyard.
Back to clothing: Even more than cheery memories of wearing comfy cotton sweaters with loved ones all winter, the anticipation of summer fun turns the tedious annual switch-out into a mini-festival for one. Those silk pants – I’d forgotten how great they are; I can wear ’em to work with a plain white T-shirt. If my office reopens, that is… My swimsuits – spur-of-the-moment trips to the river on hot afternoons! That blouse with a silly pattern of pink flamingos – I’ll wear that when it turns chilly after a performance at Jacob’s Pillow! I can’t wait – free dance performances on the outdoor stage! I wonder who’ll go in our car pool? We can do that hike at Sanderson Brook –
Oh, hell. No Jacob’s Pillow this year. Closed because of COVID. I don’t know if the state parks are open. No Boston Symphony playing at Tanglewood. The retreat center on the hill nearby has had to lay off nearly their entire staff and cancel their summer season; my acquaintance who’d just started a job at the Pillow posted on social media weeks ago about staring at the ceiling, so I know he’s laid off too. I’m not even sure whether any of my outdoor-group friends, nearly all of whom are in their 60s and 70s, would even want to share a vehicle with carless me to go to the food co-op. And I’m sure as hell not interested in getting onto a bus or train with strangers. After 11 weeks at home, leaving only for quick trips to supermarkets and to grab a few curbside-pickup food orders, I’m probably not an asymptomatic carrier of the new coronavirus; the only thing wrong with me is mild pollen allergies and occasional insomnia. But who wants to take a risk when we don’t have to?
I’m well aware that I’ve been privileged (and white) enough to have such choices – to have enough savings and free time to be able to get into a car and go to the Berkshires for a day or an evening, to get onto a bus, train, and/ or plane for a vacation or a trip to my parents’ homes for an emergency. But I’m concerned about the small businesses and larger arts organizations I support when I travel down the street or to another state or continent. Plenty of them are run by, and in turn support, women, immigrants, LGBTQ folks, and people of color. The Boston Symphony is not going to collapse if I don’t sit on the lawn at Tanglewood once or twice a season, but I worry about the others – it’s not easy to keep a small business afloat under the best of circumstances, never mind during a raging global pandemic.
As a travel writer, I’ll have to settle for recounting my trips in the past year, mini-excursions close to home. Nothing too daring, but I did expand my bicycling horizons, with a couple of mishaps and an expanded feeling of adventure. More posts to come…