Buds

It’s a new day in a new week in an entirely new world, and it feels like a lifetime since I last wrote about what’s going on (it was just last week).

We’re living in this odd tension between being concerned, like everyone else taking the proper precautions to stay healthy and Covid-19 free — while also trying not to let this affect our plans for a productive season of growth. Winter into Spring is not our typical busy time for production – that’s from May until Christmas Day in Minnesota – so for the past 7 years I’ve gotten used to using this time to nurture the growth and to build.

This is the time every year when we re-do our company’s demo reel, re-examine our websites, and make plans for how we’ll stay sane when on a two-a-day shooting schedule over summer, and the edits keep us up all night into the fall. But while having the time is typically fertile ground to cultivate growth, this time around I’m almost too afraid to think*. It’s been dark.

To manage the tension while these days in quarantine tick slowly by, I’ve tried devoting my energies not to thinking, but to creating.

On Monday we see spiking numbers in local cases. My mom’s bakery closes. Then Christian and I finish writing the pilot to a new show we’re making this summer, fingers crossed. We make quick work of a bottle of wine and much chocolate. I instantly regret this.

Tuesday I mostly cry and mope around the house and eat a lot of biscuits. I also talk with a New York Times correspondent about my experiences navigating this new world as a freelancer. I agree to a time slot on my friend’s spirituality podcast, Friday at midnight (since all the recording studios are closed, the recording must take place when it’s quiet in LA). We do manage a family walk in the late afternoon, where I notice all of the bushes and trees in my vicinity have sprouted fresh green buds.

And isn’t all of noticing simply the art of creating awareness?

Wednesday I catch up with a friend in wellness and another friend in film. I learn the crisis is being felt across all industries, not just mine; I reckon the only company coming out on top of this is the virtual meeting platform Zoom.

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Later on, they make the big announcement – on Friday we’ll enter a statewide shutdown, no school until May 4th (distance learning aside) – and Lola is in poor spirits about it. We officially cancel, however reluctantly, our upcoming long weekend to visit the in-laws in my husband’s hometown. I miss my nephew, and soak in the reality that I must un-invite him to stay with us over the last days of his spring break.

Heavy, I make dinner (does anyone else feel they’ve never made more meals at home consecutively in their entire life??).

I am making pasta, not because we hoarded it but because it’s easy and yeah, we bought a couple extra boxes. I’m stirring a big boiling pot of tortellini with one hand and texting my childhood friend Emma in Seattle with the other about how badly I miss sushi, but my perceived losses seem trivial when there are healthcare workers risking their actual lives right now to keep us safe. I wonder if they dream of sushi, or just a good night’s sleep.

Still I flip to the calendar to see when we’ll need to get groceries again, and make a note to add a stop for takeout sushi on the way home if possible. Is anyone out there organizing dinner donations to local hospitals and clinics doing Covid-19 testing, like people do for teachers during conferences? I make a note to look into this.

From the corner of my eye I spot the Archer Farms Guarantee on the side of the empty pasta package, only my mind reads it as their QUARANTINE. I reflexively drop the spoon and shudder a little. Then my family is storming the kitchen and Lola is setting the table while reminding Christian he promised her they’d play Nintendo Switch tonight after this.

“It’s a commitment you made!” she proclaims.

“I’ve made worse commitments.” he banters. I jump right into the easy joke I’ve been waiting for all day:

“You’ve made worse commitments?” I say,  “BABE. I’m right here!

I’m laughing so hard my face aches. Suddenly they are both wrapping their arms around me, laughing hard, too, while erupting in choruses of “mom — no!” and “babe! That is so not what I meant!” I know, I know, I reassure them. I needed the levity of that moment more than ever before.

This has been a big week of pasta for us, Lola later notes. I nod.

At the table we take a vote about which pasta is best between tortellini and gnocchi. I’m outvoted by Team Tortellini, but I don’t even care, I have such a soft spot for gnocchi and I always will. First, because gnocchi is the pasta my sweet friend Sam made from scratch for me when I visited him in Seattle thirteen years ago. I had never had a potato pasta and I seriously had my doubts, but when those pillowy puffs of salt and sauce hit my tongue I was hooked. It was heaven. And I didn’t know it yet, but I was carrying Lola inside me on that trip. Guess what I ate the most of during my pregnancy, besides pay-by-the-pound Chinese food from the local buffet?

The other reason I’m a ride or die for gnocchi is because it’s a cheap staple to have on hand, great for when you need to spice things up in the pasta department and you’ve overdone it on spaghetti. If you buy Target’s brand of gnocchi and pour an inexpensive red sauce over the top, pairing it with a side of garlic green beans and a refreshing glass of ice water, it becomes an entire meal — and a kinda fancy one at that! —  to feed a family of 3 for under $5. That’s why gnocchi always conjures specific memories of eating it with my little three-piece family, while we lived below the poverty line in an overly expensive neighborhood and it felt like we were constantly late on rent. We were sure we would face eviction, but it didn’t happen. Once our landlord knocked on the door over dinner, when we were actually eating gnocchi.

I think of this memory often: sending Christian to talk him down and buy us some more time, and being too nervous to take another bite until he got back to the table. Instead I prayed for a miracle, which came by way of somehow not being kicked out right then and there. That night I learned gnocchi is even pretty great when it’s cold.

Sitting around the table in a very different house where we live and sometimes eat gnocchi, we are playing Rose, Thorn, Bud — a game invented by my friend Katie to help families open up to each other. It’s a lot like playing highs and lows, but with a new twist: everyone in the family takes turns sharing the best thing about their day (the rose), and the worst (the thorn), and something new they anticipate learning more about and are excited to explore (the bud). Most of our thorns have something to do with the isolation of being in social quarantine, but remarkably we each still find a rose and a bud in our days.

Later that night I write a script for a short film we’ll shoot on Thursday night before Friday’s lockdown. And like the excitement of the tree branches out my window rounding at the tips and how everything is turning green, this was, without a doubt, my bud for the week.

 

*It’s important to stay informed, but the 24/7 news cycle can be a lot to take in which is why I’ve scaled back on absorbing the info to just 15 minutes a day. I’ve limited my social media time to one hour a day, spread out between Twitter and Instagram (gave my password for Facebook to Christian a loooong time ago!). If you, like me, are struggling with feeling anxious during this time, limiting your intake can really help. 

 

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