Family Matters
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Family Matters

Recreating Family Time in a Pandemic

Many things are changing, like the way we spend time with each other, but some things have not

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

Our family used to gather every Sunday for lunch. Afterwards, we’d go to our separate worlds, looking at our phones, the newspaper, a book, as we sat around the house. When the coronavirus struck, we stopped seeing each other as the city went into a lockdown and everyone stayed home.

Even if we lived very near, we avoided seeing each other for a month, except for fleeting moments when we’d say hi from the lawn.

As restrictions eased and we were allowed to go out, we started seeing each other again, first to walk around the village, then to celebrate birthdays, and lately, a weekly dinner. We still avoid going to other places, and when we meet, we take precautions and wash our hands often.

We gather at our father’s veranda, usually unused pre-pandemic, but now our new favorite space. It looks out to a wide garden decorated with a profusion of plants, flowers, and shrubs. Some afternoons, we lay out an inflatable pool for the young children to swim in.

At nights, we enjoy the cool breeze. Dinner could be fast food chicken, takeout sate noodles, or favorite home-cooked meals. I bring our own family’s contribution to the meal, a cake or bread I made that day. After dinner, we open a bottle of wine and drink while eating chips and peanuts. We exchange stories and local news. We still look at our phones but we also talk. The teens join us and we laugh together.

And so while the pandemic has brought people apart, it has also brought us closer. There are no parties and events to attend, barely any social appointments to keep. Time is moving slower. We don’t need to rush, and we can enjoy the present in the company of our nearest and dearest.

One night we watched a movie together at home. I can’t remember the last time we did so, but here we were, grandfather, married children, and grandchildren, sitting back and enjoying a movie together.

We are a family that shows love and affection not through hugs and words, but by spending time together and making small and sincere gestures. We cook food and share the results of (mostly successful) baking experiments, buy extra fruits, vegetables, and snacks to give each other, and give now-trendy plants on birthdays and to say thank you.

The pandemic may have forced us to physically stay away from each other, but there are still ways to show our care. Thanks to technology, we can call, text, and see each other virtually. That’s how Zoom has become very useful, not just for work and school, but also for celebrations. As we live near each other, we send food we’ve cooked, baked, or ordered out. A few days a week, we walk or bicycle together. We gather once a week for dinners. The pace of life has become slower, and so we are finding more time for each other. Pandemic or not, one will find a way to reach out.

One time, I stepped out to the garden and looked at the night sky, a dark blanket with wisps of white, a glowing crescent moon, and a sprinkling of bright stars. The world is changing and many things are uncertain these days, but some things remain constant, steady, and sure, like the love and light from here and above.

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Debbie Rodolfo

Debbie Rodolfo

Writer, mother, book lover, businesswoman, traveler from the Philippines || www.bloomingpen.net