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Columns

When COVID-19 gives you lemons, make (blueberry gin) lemonade

I’ve been training for this coronavirus stay-at-home thing all my life. Yes, I know, you’re familiar with my literary persona, the Prince Charming-charming, lightly-satirical Rick.

If you only knew! I was born for social distancing. See, I’m a writer. Not by profession, as the amount of money accrued over fifty years wouldn’t pay for my weekly grocery run. Rather, I’m a writer by temperament, searching out solitude like extroverts search out ears to fill.

It’s not that I don’t like people; I do. In fact, many of my friends are people, along with one or two relatives. Truly, I love my family and friends, especially men who wear similar haircuts and women who tell me I look young for a 94-year-old (I just turned 71). I even enjoy an evening out—if beginning no later than 4 and wrapping up by 5:30. And who doesn’t like going to movies with others, not talking for two hours, then wearing a film critic’s expression afterwards suggesting the cinematic experience so intense I can’t discuss it?

To the point: Almost never has Charles Dickens’s “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” been more reflective of recent days. I often think and hear, “Separation is bringing us together,” a paradox demonstrating when a crisis looms, we pull together better than Olympic oarsmen in a coxed eight.

When my school transformed classroom learning into electronic learning from home, I started a journal separate from the one in which I record my increasing weight. The title alludes to Daniel DeFoe’s “A Journal of the Plague Year”: “Corona Journal, Or, A Journal of the Virus Week, Month, Year, Century, Who Knows?”

A bit dystopian, right? But better to be pessimistic and glad when things turn out better than expected, than be optimistic and disappointed, depressed, and angry if things go awry. A few entries:

March 15, The Ides of March

Stopped by the Geneva library. “Beware,” everything about the day said. When I saw a small group huddled by the front door, it portended bad news.

“It’s closed!” a mom said, incredulous.

“My God, this is a crisis!” I wailed. “It’s official.”

“We’ve got little kids at home!” the parents cried, horrified, even while laughing.

Stopped at Binny’s. Dodged shopping carts burgeoned with cases of wine; innumerable green, gold, brown, and clear bottles; and six packs of unpronounceable and Milwaukee brews.

Were they reading “Under the Volcano,” wanting an interior volcanic experience—during eruption? In the parking lot, I called, “Stay healthy or stay drunk!”

Picked up two 4-packs of my wife Tia’s favorite libation, Blueberry Gin Lemonade; never when life gives lemons has such delicious lemonade been made.

March 16

Disinfecting bannisters, doorknobs, hand sanitizers. Tia texted, phoned everyone, “He’s doing something I haven’t gotten him to do for forty years—clean the house!”

Molly, my daughter home from grad school, coughed one afternoon; when we looked at her, she clarified, “I just swallowed wrong.”

March 17

Jay mentioned finding online a “swarm” box that, hung near his empty hives, would attract multitudes of bees, thus not having to pay for new ones.

“Freebies!” Molly laughed.

March 19

The news says patients testing positive will rise in the next few days due to more available tests, but not to panic. Check.

March 22

…To be continued! Stay well out there!

•áRick Holinger lives in Geneva, teaches high school English, and facilitates Geneva library’s writing workshop. His collection of columns, “Kangaroo Rabbits and Galvanized Fences,” is due out this spring. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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