Jenny and Bob Oestreicher have lived in their house for four years but could count on two hands the number of times they actually sat at their kitchen table and had a family meal together. The pandemic changed that, Jenny says. “We have bar stools at our kitchen island, and most of the time we would just eat there, not really sit down intentionally and have a nice meal together. It’s been a real treat. We prepare our meals, we sit down and we eat as a family at least twice a day.”
Like any two-working-parents family, life was a blur of driving back and forth from daycare and work, shopping, temple, visits with grandparents, errands, carry-out, playdates, chores. The kitchen island was one of the few places they stopped for a breather. Stella is an energetic, spunky, social and smart 3-½ year old who keeps Jenny and Bob busy. When the stay at home order was implemented, and Stella and her parents relocated from daycare and offices to home, Stella had to wonder what was up. At the beginning, Jenny and Bob told her they were going on vacation, and that seemed to have worked. Jenny thinks that Stella was young enough accept the changes but not old enough to question why.
Stella easily grasped the adjustments required for life in the Covid world. Masks, social distancing, calling out her grandparents and her aunts and uncles if they came too close to her without their masks on and silly distance dance parties with her uncle in her grandmother’s garage were now the new normal. Stella adopted the role of pandemic police girl to help all the adults in her life stay in line.
The online world became a part of her life too: playdates on FaceTime and her favorite activity, YoFI Shababa (now on Zoom). Bob says that even though it would have been easy to plop Stella on the couch to play on her tablet all day, they tried hard to mix it up and play with toys, go for walks outside, or go for a drive. They also took advantage of YoFI’s “Play It Safe” program, taking Stella to the Wise Center playground.
Many talk of how “surreal” the pandemic has made everyday life. Jenny and Bob experienced that, attending two Jewish funerals remotely. Each of them had a cousin who passed away. Bob mentions that “For me, it was the most concrete thing about this experience. It rang true that we’re really in a global crisis, when you can’t even go to a graveside for a funeral to mourn a family member.” He was grateful for the technology, however, pointing out “We were able to sit shiva through Zoom with our family. Imagine if this had happened five years ago, when none of these technologies existed on any large scale.”
Stella’s extra-long vacation ended when she went back to day care in August. Jenny, still working from home full-time, works in human resources for Luxottica, and Bob, who is going into work a day or two a week now, is employed at Tire Discounters as general counsel and manager of real estate growth and human resources. Hopefully, life is now a little less surreal for the Oestreichers, and they’ll be able to think soon about rescheduling their West Coast trip they had to cancel in March. Beach, anyone?