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Humans of Hyattsville: Life under COVID-19

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Posted on: April 1, 2020

By Lindsay Myers                 

Last night I erased the whiteboard calendar in my kitchen. It was like erasing the lives of two different people. The first person’s life, scribbled into early March, burst with activity: birthday parties, baby showers, coffee dates, doctor appointments, work deadlines, reminders in bright red with loopy arrows pointing all over the place (“drop forms at school,” “pick up donuts for church!!”). The little multicolored scribbles of this person’s life wrestled with one another for real estate in the too small boxes of her daily life. 

The second person’s life begins on March 16. Her life is bright white. Clean. Empty. Long. A couple of grey smudges, like smoke from an almost dead fire, survive in the margins of this person’s life. Remnants from what feels like a decade ago. 

I wrote “April” in a springy purple color, determined to be cheery. But the emptiness of my calendar still rattles my spirit everytime I walk past it. The events of Holy Week, written prominently at the top of each day in the second week of April, remind me that this will be an Easter without mass. An Easter without friends and family pushing through church doors with throaty hymns of joy bursting from their lungs. 

Thankfully, the people of Hyattsville are who they are, and though this period of isolation has taken me away from my friends, it’s also introduced me to my neighbors. People I’ve never seen before now live in full view. On daily walks with my children, I see people tottering about in their garden beds, fixing shingles on their roofs, walking their dogs and riding bikes with their family members. People whose daily lives were so different from mine now extend a cheery greeting from their yards and wish me well. These tiny moments lift my spirits. They make me thankful to live where I do and remind me that, empty calendar aside, my life is still pretty blessed. 

When the Hyattsville Life & Times reached out to residents to collect stories about their new normals, we received many accounts similar to my own. Despite all of the changes and uncertainties of life under COVID-19, the people of Hyattsville are a hopeful bunch. Below are some of their stories. When all of this is over, I intend to fill my calendar by having them over — perhaps we’ll make lemonade.

Life under COVID-19

Ximena Serna, a 12-year-old resident who used to be homeschooled, said the transition to learning from home again hasn’t been as difficult for her as it has for some of her friends. Though she’s eager to get back to school, one benefit she’s experienced by staying home is that she can video chat with her friends in Japan, where she used to live. “Normally it is too hard because of time-zone differences and school schedules,” she said. 

Mary Ryan, who has been teleworking from home, said the transition for her and her wife has been “a work in progress.” Over the last few weeks, she has changed her priorities. At age 62, she is focusing on staying healthy and following the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines as much as possible. 

“We are trying to remain positive,” said Ryan. “If I think too much about what might happen to my family, friends or me, I become overwhelmed and anxious. Focusing on the here and now and what I can control is a new priority.” 

Ryan also said this time has taught her to be more “kind, understanding and compassionate toward others,” a sentiment shared by Jimmy McClellan from the Queens Chapel Manor area of Hyattsville. He said that the pause on normal activities has helped him reflect on people from walks of life that are different from his.

“My hope is that this time of pause for us will allow us to better understand how we can take that energy and make change in our society,” said McClellan. “If we take the time to direct our energy to constructive differences in our one, beautiful world, I am optimistic for the post-COVID-19 world.”

For people juggling raising kids and working from home, this time of retreat has offered a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Dan Broder and his wife start teleworking at 6 a.m. 

“It’s a strange time,” he said. “Our schedules have completely changed.” 

In between teleworking sessions, they care for their two-year-old daughter. When everyone needs a break, they garden. 

Broder summarized how many of us feel when the isolation feels suffocating.

I’m looking forward to when the virus passes, and we can return to our normal routine. I never want to experience something like this again,” he said.

For some, “experiencing something like this” is a lot scarier than tackling the challenges of adjusting to life at home full time. After Emanda Thomas felt a tickle in her throat in mid-March, she quarantined herself to be safe. Within a week, she had experienced all of the standard symptoms of COVID-19.

“Fortunately, I was able to break my fever and curb the cough by staying hydrated,” she said. “I had a few challenging episodes of shortness of breath and heart palpitations, [but] I got my symptoms under control with herbs, oils, electrolytes, soups, steam inhalations, lemons, hot drinks and immune boosters. I called three times to try to get tested, but was unfortunately told that if I didn’t arrive with shortness of breath, cough and fever, I couldn’t get a test,” she said.

Though Thomas is fine now, her experience points to the likelihood that an unknown number of people who may have had the virus but will never be officially counted. 

For many of us, the fear of contracting COVID-19 is ever-present. Fawaya Mohammed said she has learned to overcome her fear through a combination of trusting in God and hands-on projects.

“I have decided that what I like to do is painting. My husband and I, we took on painting the living room. I hope he stays home from work longer until we get our house in good shape. I am hoping to power wash and paint the house on the outside and sand the floor also … But don’t tell my husband I want to do that because I just tell him one day at a time,” chuckled Mohammed.

Email your “Life under COVID-19” stories to our webmaster at Li*****@hy*************.com, and we might just include them in our next issue. Stories from medical professionals, teachers and gig workers especially welcome!

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