In the old days, my writing group met in my house once a week while my kids were at school. I stacked thick slices of homemade bread, smoked salmon and cheese on a platter, spread cookies upon the tea tray and brewed big pots of coffee. It was the perfect excuse to use my grandmother’s china.
These days, I meet with my writing friends at a safe distance in the parking lot of an empty grocery store. We wear masks and exchange pages as quickly as possible. It feels vaguely like a drug deal, only no money or pharmaceuticals change hands. “Hey Jenny, do you have some words for me?” my friend asks.
In the old days, my husband left for work early in the morning, and didn’t come home until late at night. On an average week, we would spend 10% of our time together, not counting sleeping. Date nights were infrequent, and an occasion to wear high heels.
These days, I see my husband 99% of the time. Or actually, I don’t see him, but know that he’s upstairs at his desk, logged into conference calls that begin early in the morning and last until late at night. He cooks me breakfast; I make him lunch and dinner. We run into each other in the hallway wearing ratty atheleisure wear. “Thanks for buying graham crackers,” he tells me.
In the old days, I had a system that kept our home — and lives — running like clockwork. Mondays I changed sheets and watered houseplants. Tuesdays were for cleaning bathrooms, Wednesdays I vacuumed, Thursdays I deep-cleaned the kitchen and Fridays I caught up on laundry. For an older house with second-hand furniture, it always looked decent.
These days, my system fails me. I stick to my chore chart but it’s not enough, not when the house is lived in, with a capital L. Virtual school, baking projects, craft disasters, unread magazines, a mini trampoline in the living room — messes commandeer every room. We goof and bring out the yard waste instead of the recycling bins one week, and the un-recycled refuse builds up fast. “Mom, can I use this pile of newspaper to make paper mache?” my daughter asks.
In the old days, planning the holidays with extended family members required diplomatic skills on par with Henry Kissinger. Taking a turn at hosting meant a month-long schedule of deep cleaning, yard work and decorating. The ironing board would make a rare appearance in order to ensure tablecloths were pressed to perfection.
These days, holidays mean road trips to ding-dong ditch family and friends. My son and I drive to my sister’s apartment to deliver three loaves of bread he baked. We leave them on her porch and race away. Then, because we’re desperate, I unload our extra recycling into her apartment complex’s dumpsters, right next to the “Dumpers Will Be Prosecuted,” sign.
If anyone recognized me in saggy sweatpants, chucking flattened graham cracker boxes and old manuscripts into a recycling bin that didn’t belong to me, I’d be humiliated. But this is 2020. I’m just another desperate housewife wearing a mask.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.