On a wall at my beach home, I hung high a small hand-made sign I found in a Cape May antique store years ago, which says, “The best place to be is together.”
As much as I agree with those words, this relentless pandemic has strained boundaries of natural family relationships so that many seek relief from masked relationships, even with those we care about. They seek relief daily despite remaining safely at home with each other, as long as the world at large has danger lurking in every cough or sneeze by someone unmasked.
“Go to the cottage and stay there,” my daughter, a physician, told me, not wasting time suggesting her parents get to safety as soon as the outbreak intensified.
“We are already packed,” I replied. “We’ll be there very soon.”
My husband and I March 9, 2020, gathered our two four-legged family members and moved to our home near the Wetlands Institute, where we stayed through fall, when we managed to get vaccinated. Once immunized, we ventured gingerly back into our city home, at Rittenhouse Square, in Philadelphia, where our neighbors remained masked.
We hardly ever left the house. At first, anxiety about the need to relocate stayed with us everyday, but now, months later, we are well past the first anniversary of fear, as this crisis disrupts a second spring and summer. By now, however, we have learned how to cope with a situation most hoped to never experience.
By asking local clients and business owners about how they cope with this once-in-a-lifetime event, I learned five suggestions that might be of use for everyone.
1. Rentals were “going fast” in early winter 2021, according to realtors. My clients who were cooped up in the city looked forward to getting away and relaxing in a novel yet familiar environment. Although many renters are planning for the usual summer rental period, they, along with new renters, are also signing on for a winter stay at the beach. They tell me they enjoy the open air and quiet solitude of our towns when not too busy.
2. Visitors come to our area because it feels safer, as many are still attempting to flee big cities a year after the pandemic. Kids being homeschooled welcome the beach almost any time, so Cape May County set records for rentals last fall, according to Sue Gleiter, of Tribune Media Services.
“Getting away to a fall or winter beach” held an attraction for many seeking safe travels to get out of a rut.
3. Many of us are now working from home while caring for kids, so what could be better than a trip to the beach to prevent the choruses of, “I’m bored, and there’s nothing to do?”
4. A modest family gathering is a welcomed remedy for many. Next weekend, our kids and grandkids are joining John and me on one of our homes' back deck to see each other easily and safely. We're planning a family picnic from a local restaurant - as simple as this sounds, our family has never done it.
5. As part of this family picnic with two of our daughters and their families, we plan to contact our third daughter and family who live out of state, so they can join us virtually as we gather without them. We may well sit at our dinner tables in our different cities and then check-in by video or phone.
Life is what we make of it; self-discipline allows us to make the most of this second spring of a pandemic we never wanted.
To Consider: This spring, more than most, the key is to think creatively and make the best of every situation since these are not regular times. How can you reach out to those you love?
To Do: Take a moment to enjoy family and appreciate loved ones nearby. Order food, watch a movie, rediscover boxed family games and card games. By phone or video or social distancing, celebrate friends and loved ones with great good gusto.
ED. NOTE: Dr. Judith Coche practices clinical psychology in Stone Harbor and Philadelphia. She invites responses through her website, www.cochecenter.com.