Distance learning

By SUE COLE
Posted 4/1/20

Thirty years ago, we packed up our Brooklyn home, picked up our son Logan from his last day of kindergarten, loaded our three-year-old daughter Tierney and the cats into the car, and made our move …

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Distance learning

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Thirty years ago, we packed up our Brooklyn home, picked up our son Logan from his last day of kindergarten, loaded our three-year-old daughter Tierney and the cats into the car, and made our move from city to country life. We left the grit and grime of city living for a new life in a small town by a river, putting some distance between us and the gunshots we could hear on the fringes of our Ditmas Park neighborhood, and the metal detector our six year old had to pass through to get into school.  Work would continue to tie us to NYC and offer our kids the best of both worlds—we were just a hop, skip and a jump away from all the delights the city had to offer. We enjoyed the quiet, starry nights away from city lights. The gentle rolling of the stream out back replaced the clatter of traffic noise we had become so accustomed to. Distance was working in our favor.

On September 11, 2001, I was in NYC watching the Twin Towers fall. The view from my office window was disappearing before my eyes. I was thankful that my family was safe in Narrowsburg yet feeling so very far away from home, and worse, powerless to lessen the distance between us. I was stuck and couldn’t get to my family fast enough, to see them, to hug them and to reassure them we would all get through this. Distance was suddenly not simply a buffer, it was a barrier I couldn’t get past.

After college, both our children started their careers and moved to Brooklyn. At a moment’s notice, Dave and I could jump in the car and meet them for a show, a museum visit, or a meal at some great new spot they had discovered and wanted to share. We are immensely thankful that they love to come home to Narrowsburg, still maintain childhood friendships and share our love of food and books.  We were thrilled when our son and his wife Kirsten moved down the street from our daughter (one parking spot to visit both) and enjoy the benefits of having someone so close by, and not feeling the need to distance themselves from one another.

Until now.

The Coronavirus has erupted and its spread has stopped us all dead in our tracks. We have had to shelter in place and adapt to social distancing; live life devoid of physical contact when all you really want is a hug and someone credible telling you “we will get past this.”  You are trying to navigate working from home and being apart from those you want to have close by, while praying that your elders remain safe as they are most vulnerable. We are told to distance ourselves at a time we all crave being close.

Then your kids get sick. One has a fever, cough and a sore throat, the other has what seems like a horrible sinus infection, cough, zero energy, no sense of taste or smell—and you cannot get to them. They both test negative for seasonal flu and strep, but with no available testing for COVID-19, they are told to self-quarantine for 14 days. I am afraid for them. My husband who is generally stoic by nature seems worried too. You feel cut off and separated by an impenetrable distance.

So, now we are all beholding to social media as our only means of being together while being apart.  We breathe a sigh of relief when our son’s fever breaks. Via FaceTime we can see the only remnants of his confinement: a head of hair that is getting out of control. We feel blessed that he is with the love of his life and their dog, Hux, and are keeping each other sane.

 Our daughter has kept us in the know by documenting her experience with a likely coronavirus infection on Instagram. For us it is a godsend. We can see her progress as she improves physically and cuddles/tangles with her cat. We can hear her sounding better each day, and that her creativity and sense of humor have not been diminished. We are happy that Tina the Cat is keeping her company and for their “Just the Two of Us” duet.

I have long thought that social media was somewhat anti-social, but today I have a whole new perspective. Like any tool, its value is in how well you use it, and that you use it for good. After all of this is over, and it will be, I will never forget that an Instagram post is my new Instahug and that there is always an empty barstool to be filled at the Zoom “Happy Hour.”  Socializing at a distance can only bring us closer together.

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