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  • Writer's pictureDev Friedlander

Fun in Captivity

For ten days my family and I were in quarantine because of possible exposure to someone who tested positive to COVID-19 (Corona Virus). Ten days we were stuck behind walls and cold tiled floors. For the first three days of quarantine, it rained heavily, and I was forced to put aside my cravings for sunshine, fresh air, and nature. Instead of focusing on the gloom of our situation, my husband and I challenged our girls to come up with activities to fill the time, and I’m proud to say they delivered.

Every morning my girls came up with a new art project. They tie-dyed clothing in bright oranges yellows and reds. They painted, snipped, glued, and decorated various disposable objects around the house. The result? Our home is bursting with color.

From day one, I rationed the food. I told the girls what they could eat and what needed to be kept for another day. They rose to the challenge and used every one of the food items I allotted, creating various and might I say, quite delicious meals, snacks, cakes, and goodies. We even had a cook-off that my husband and middle daughter judged. My eldest won by producing a very tasty blueberry smoothie.

As the week went on, I worried about Shabbat. We had run out of all the meat we had, most of our frozen vegetables, and we had almost no eggs. The food delivery truck could only get to us the following Monday. Desperate, we called in a favor. We asked my mother-in-law for a spare chicken. She did us one better, bringing all that, some pizza burekas and puzzles for the girls. A friend of mine brought us eggs. Thanks to them, we had a wonderful Shabbat meal.

Friday, the whole family helped cook and clean for Shabbat. The girls helped me make whatever food we had left in the fridge; my husband mopped the floors and we all helped set the table. Our neighbor from across the street organized a prayer service from his balcony. About seven men came out to their individual porches and sang together in prayer, welcoming the Shabbat. It was a sight that warmed my heart. We might have been isolated, but we were most certainly not alone.

After the prayer service, we went inside to eat our meal. The first course consisted of homemade Challah, (preserved from the week before in the freezer) and tuna and chickpea salad from the few left-over cans which remained in our pantry. We had chicken soup, roasted chicken, potato wedges, brussels sprouts, and oven-baked zucchini. Frosted cupcakes were for dessert, everyone had one cupcake, and no one left hungry.

For twenty-four hours no electronics were allowed to be used unless it was a life-threatening situation. Some might argue that a bored child can potentially become a life-threatening situation, which is why I came up with the challenge to play every game we owned before Shabbat finished. We managed to get through about three-fourths of them before they had enough of structured games.

They decided to take turns performing plays; each show consisted of one dance, one song, and one skit. The shows lasted long enough for the sun to set. We had made it! Twenty-four hours all of us together under one roof, no electronics, no parks, no playmates, and no going outside. And I have to say with all honesty, it was one of the best Shabbats I have ever had.

The Day of Liberation: On the day we were freed from quarantine, the first thing I did was grab my car keys and step out the front door. Never has sunshine felt so good on my face. It was an odd experience being out, watching the flow of the traffic, seeing that life hadn’t really changed.

When I ventured to the store, I saw people pushing their carts passed me with gloved hands, everyone keeping their distance, just like the health ministry suggested. I saw a friend on another aisle, we waved at each other and went our separate ways, socializing wasn’t an option. At the checkout line, I was told to stand two meters behind the person in front of me, which I did, until my turn was called.

I might have been out of the house, but I still felt very much in isolation. It wasn’t the jaunty experience I had imagined. Walking the one hundred meters around my house felt far more invigorating. I took as many walks outside as I was allowed that day, and every day since.

I know this is all for our best, but it doesn’t feel that way. Yet, there is a lesson I have learned, one only isolation could teach me. My family and I don’t need to go out to a restaurant or visit Disney World or even hike up a hill to have a good time. Joy is always within reach right at home.

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