In my last column, I urged people to journal their stories about their lives during the pandemic so that our experiences wouldn’t be lost to time or poor memories.

Luckily, the board of the National Writers Series agreed and so was created a new website: LifeintheTimeofVirus. Entries now number over 100; most are regional, while a few have arrived from other parts of the country.

The entries exceeded our hopes, reflecting a myriad of viewpoints and experiences from all ages. Some may even bring you to tears. I hope you can take time to peruse; here are a few excerpts:

A poem by Jeanne Haynes of Traverse City:

I slide my arm through yours

walking streets made strange

with silence as if the town had inhaled

and forgot to breath, suspended,

waiting for answers and cures

Our dog doesn’t care

she thinks we’ve finally come to our senses

and started to behave

in the correct dog manner

Stay home in front of the fireplace

eat and sleep more than usual

She would take this for endless tomorrows

Dogs are quite a theme in these essays. Issabelle Brooks of Beulah, an elementary student, writes about her life through the eyes of her dog.

“I know people are worried but I never want this to end. I would really miss practicing my gymnastics with my little human. I eat her ears and love the stinky smell of those mats. Scraps have multiplied! There are many smells of different foods. Will I have to go back to my unlocked kennel jail?

“I love playing tag with my humans any time I want. These have been the best days of my bird dog life! I never want the smells to go away!”

Here’s an account from Pearl Brown of Traverse City:

“Every little symptom could be explained away as something else until my heart started beating out of my chest when I was resting. Whenever I got up to move around it felt like I’d just completed the first leg of the Boston Marathon. Then came the tsunami of symptoms: eye pain, head pain, ear pain, deep unrelenting body aches especially in my back, chills, more sweating, dry mouth, sore throat, labored breathing, weird dreams, thick post-nasal sludge, loss of smell, loss of taste, loss of appetite and exhaustion the like of which I cannot describe. The nights are exponentially worse than the days. I dread them. Today is day 8. I’m told one either rallies or tanks around day 9.

“We really thought we were ahead of Covid-19. We thought we had done everything right. As it turns out we only did one thing right. We made one choice that made a crucial difference. We stayed home. We stopped it from spreading further.”

And, finally, an excerpt from Kevin Fitton, on a shopping trip in Grand Ledge where he’s buying groceries for himself, his parents and his aunt:

“I head to check-out. My first instinct is to go through the self-check-out, but those are fifteen items or less. There are ten machines and no customers, but still. It’s fifteen, and my cart is overflowing. So, I pick a line.

“At this point, there are no safety procedures in place. No masks. No shields. The cashier isn’t wearing gloves, and she touches every item while she scans and packs my items. My anxiety is already rising when it happens: the cashier turns her head and coughs into her hand, and before any words come out of my mouth, she’s again touching my groceries. Touch, touch, touch.

“Panicked, I drive home. What am I supposed to do? My aunt has health issues. My parents are approaching seventy. It’s probably fine, but who knows? The ice cream is melting.

“What I decide is to clean every item I can with disinfectant wipes. Others I take right out of the packaging, emptying the bagels for my parents into reusable bags from my trunk. I dump loaves of bread into the same bags, the loaves falling apart as they land. I make piles of groceries in the driveway, while I work through the items, simultaneously feeling utterly silly and equally relieved as my system takes shape.

“Eventually, my fears dissipate, and in the end, it’s fine. No one gets sick (I can safely say that now). But the memory is still raw.”And, finally, an excerpt from Kevin Fitton, on a shopping trip in Grand Ledge where he’s buying groceries for himself, his parents and his aunt:

“I head to check-out. My first instinct is to go through the self-check-out, but those are fifteen items or less. There are ten machines and no customers, but still. It’s fifteen, and my cart is overflowing. So, I pick a line.

“At this point, there are no safety procedures in place. No masks. No shields. The cashier isn’t wearing gloves, and she touches every item while she scans and packs my items. My anxiety is already rising when it happens: the cashier turns her head and coughs into her hand, and before any words come out of my mouth, she’s again touching my groceries. Touch, touch, touch.

“Panicked, I drive home. What am I supposed to do? My aunt has health issues. My parents are approaching seventy. It’s probably fine, but who knows? The ice cream is melting.

“What I decide is to clean every item I can with disinfectant wipes. Others I take right out of the packaging, emptying the bagels for my parents into reusable bags from my trunk. I dump loaves of bread into the same bags, the loaves falling apart as they land. I make piles of groceries in the driveway, while I work through the items, simultaneously feeling utterly silly and equally relieved as my system takes shape.

“Eventually, my fears dissipate, and in the end, it’s fine. No one gets sick (I can safely say that now). But the memory is still raw.”

These submissions will be saved in digital perpetuity at the Traverse Area District Library. To submit your own entry, please go to https://lifeinthetimeofvirus.org. Thank you!

Anne Stanton is the executive editor of the National Writers Series, a year-round book festival. Check out our upcoming virtual author event with Scott Turow, as well as the just-announced 2020 NWS Scholarship winners at www.nationalwritersseries.org.

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