Regardless of how historic this past year has been, I didn’t keep a quarantine journal. What would have been the point? Every day was exactly like the last one: a few thousand more Americans dead and nowhere for the living to go. While my family, and general situation, were fine, I still had lingering blue moods over the constant bell-toll of Covid-19 sufferers. It was a dreary, rainy spring and the nice summer and fall weather didn’t do much to lift spirits.
My sister is a partner in her law firm. She was put in charge of planning activities for the families of the lawyers and staff in her office to engage them in helping others to combat general depression. They made cards for first responders, they packed food at food banks, they sent videos to elderly people in lockdown, they wrote silly words of encouragement. She asked me for ideas. I said, “Why not get people to send in a photo of themselves in their covid outfit? You can make a slide show with cheesy cat-walk music and send it around”.
I didn’t even need to explain what a “covid outfit” was; everyone has one. Sociologists have found that most people wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time. With my covid outfit, I wore 1% of my wardrobe 100% of the time. I literally wore it every day from March to January. It’s hideous, it’s stained, but, boy, is it comfy. It consists of a pair of surgical scrubs topped off with a thing like a housecoat, socks, slippers and, if my hair was wet, a pink turban. If I had to go to the grocery store, I swapped the scrub pants for yoga pants. If I went for a run, I changed the top and put on sneakers. The variation on the covid outfit was not too varied.
Jonah (Jonah 3:1-5, 10) warned the citizens of Ninevah that catastrophe was coming and to put on sackcloth and start fasting. The people obeyed Jonah, God noticed, and Ninevah was spared destruction. In the role of Jonah, Dr. Fauci told the American public to wear a mask, socially distance and wash hands. It didn’t go well. Unlike Ninevehans, Americans did not obey their scientific prophet and were, in the words of the Old Testament, a “stiff-necked people”. They considered the mask and distancing requirements to be an affront to their individual liberties and witnessed, now, more than 410,000 of their countrymen and women die lonely deaths. They definitely didn’t fast, either. The only thing I, personally, got right was the sackcloth.
Now that hope for the pandemic’s end has arrived in the form of a vaccine, I want to give thanks for my health, my family’s survival and especially my covid outfit. It was warm and cozy when the world was terrifying and cold. Its utter lack of pretension linked me closely with my neighbors and friends who were similarly attired, zooming from home, but isolated from me. Let’s remember the tragic year we have all shared and light a candle for those that have died. We may even make a ceremonial bonfire (or more appropriately, a fire pit) of our covid outfits to send them up to heaven after serving us well.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog