Br(u)no: Being Inside Brings Out Big Thoughts, Week 4
The COVID-19 quarantine period has reached Easter Weekend. Hope you are able to find peace of mind, or at least a piece of beránek, a lamb-shaped cake, to eat. Photo Credit: Gabriela Zalubil Reichlova.
Perhaps it is the fact that Easter is coming, but this week has brought on many big, and sometimes, dark thoughts. Nothing in my personal history gives me the perspective to understand this weekslong self-quarantine against the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. How long will be inside? Will there always be enough food? How will social interaction change in the future?
And, the harder
questions: What if, God forbid, my wife or I or both succumb to
COVID-19? What would happen to the kids?
This is where
religion comes in. I would not consider myself to be religious, but I
appreciate the role that religion plays. It adds meaning and ceremony
for symbolic events, like weddings, baptisms and funerals, and, for
some, it is the framework to understand what has become of the world.
Saturday, April 4
— Day 22
The kids got a small
kitchen play set. It has an oven, a sink, a small refrigerator and a
microwave. Putting it together made it feel like Christmas morning.
The kids are in a
terribly annoying phase. The boy is constantly roaring like a
Tyrannosaurus Rex. The girl screams like a teenager in a horror
movie. At least they have made some decent (pretend) meals and even
washed the (pretend) dishes.
Sunday, April 5 —
I spoke with one of my best friends from high school. We grew apart
and traveled the world in different ways an it had been decades since
we last spoke. Yet, something about being stuck inside your home, one
in Brno and the other in the middle of the United States, makes you
think of the good old times and want to reach out.
Monday, April 6 —
Life is still moving
forward. Buses and cars pass in front of the house at regular
intervals. Trains keep passing on the raised tracks behind our house.
All of them are mostly empty. The kids announce the directions:
“Leaving Brno” or “Going to Brno”.
How many children
will be born in nine months? Will there be a baby boom this winter?
It would be terrible for an expectant father to not be able to attend
to their wives at the hospital during the birth.
Tuesday, April 7
— Day 25
Here is a conversion
that I had with my son:
Me: I’m making
Son: I don’t want
Me: That’s a
double negative. We don’t use two negatives in English.
Son: I don’t want
Yes, I am a jerk for
correcting the grammar of my 3-and-a-half-year-old son. But kids have
such a sponge-brains that they can quickly find an alternative. Many
parents who read an English-language online newspaper in Brno, Czech
Republic are raising their kids to be bilingual. Being strict to make
them use both languages has paid off for us.
8 — Day 26
In the past, my
Jewish friends in Seattle and New York used my mother’s Czech
potato pancake recipe for their Passover seder dinners. This year,
with my immediate family locked inside, we decided to have a seder
meal ourselves. We started with the bitterness of pickles to
represent the exodus from Egypt, and improvised further for each
additional portion of the meal. Observing Passover feels about right:
we are not exactly slaves during this global pandemic but we are not
The wifi internet
connection on my computer went down. I felt abject terror for a
couple of hours as I tried to reestablish the connection. It felt
like a miracle when it finally connected.
Thursday, April 9
— Day 27
Lunch was Jewish:
matzo ball soup. Dinner was Catholic: spinach pasta for Green
This day, for so
many years, has been one of the best nights in Brno because of the
green beer and the post-winter social awakening. With the weather so
nice this year, it would have been a great party tonight as well. Oh
The kids have
and Paw Patrol on most nights. They get some “Land Before Time”,
an animated series about dinosaurs, on YouTube when they are supposed
to calming down for afternoon naps. That had been it for screen time.
Tonight we watched our first movie of the self-quarantine: Brave. It
is a Disney-princess movie and it resulted in a roller-coaster of
emotions. Both the girl and the boy stood up to shout instructions
during exciting early scenes. But, later, the boy was scared and
pulled me into the bedroom to read to him a book. Moments later, the
girl burst in with tears in her eyes and bawling about the climactic
tension. Eventually, we were all able to be brave and watch all the
way to the happy ending.
Mom, who was getting
some alone time, had no idea about the movie’s ups and downs. When
she came upstairs, the girl hugged her tightly and promised, through
tears, never to — Spoiler Alert! — turn her into a bear to avoid
getting married. (Sorry, if I was too late with the warning.)
Friday, April 10
— Day 28
screen-time dam has burst. The first kid movie of the self-quarantine
period was Thursday and now, this morning, we had the first usage of
the tabloid computer for the Peppa Pig painting app. Clearly, we are
running out of ideas. (And kids will never touch my so-important
computer for typing practice again.)
We started the
morning with a beránek, a Lamb-shaped cake that is a
traditional Easter pastry.
We have some nice
Easter-themed plans for this weekend. The boy and I are making plans
for velikonoční pondělí. According to local tradition, on
Monday, boys and men are supposed freshen up the women in their lives
with the tap of a pomlázka, a braid or willow branches. This
coronavirus experience will change a lot of things. I think this old
pagan tradition will be one of them.
* * *
Are you turning
inside while you are dealing with this coronavirus pandemic? Do you
find solace in religion? Do you have any special plans for this long
Please share your
ideas for coping with the ongoing repercussions of COVID-19 in the
comments below or on Facebook.