Cool as a Cucumber | COVID-19 Stories | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
click to enlarge Cool as a Cucumber
Jennifer May
"My daughter read in a book how to shake cream into butter. And what do you know, we had some whipping cream in the back of the fridge. She shook that into butter in about 10 minutes, and then she rinsed it in water. It's the perfect activity to pair with reading the entire Little House book series, which I borrowed from a friend in the days before social isolation became the new normal."

One fascinating thing for me to witness during all this is the unexpected, placid calm of my divorced, single, aging parents. To be clear, both of them would only accept the objective, practical truth that apparently, with each passing year, they get older. Otherwise, neither of them really cottons to the assumptions that accompany the passing of time.

My mother is a natural, gifted worrier of sometimes Olympian proportions. In normal times, when I call her once I'm on the NJ side of the Hudson to let her know my ETA, her response is often, "Well for God's sake be careful." In response to her appeals that I "call her as soon as I land" (I do), or "call her when I get home from the show" (I won't), I regularly joke with her that if I'm dead she'll be the first to know. 

I trace this kind of dire, expect-the-worst stance back to her native city, Exeter, being bombed by Germany during WWII, the family waiting the air raids out under the stairs. Her dad had been captain of the Exeter Football team until he had to rid houses of unexploded bombs during the war. 

Fair enough to be a little uptight on occasion.

I wonder and worry sometimes about her growing older and how much of that eventual care and providing of company will fall to me. 

But, in the wake of coronavirus she's playing it reeeeaaaaaal cool. 

When she found out people were hoarding toilet paper she jumped right in: "Godfather Dick! We never had that during the war! We all had to tear up the newspapers and string them along some rope in the bathroom! We didn't think twice about it. It was just one of many chores."

She's familiar with rationing; it's an old childhood memory. 

She's used to being alone, not for this long, but it's not alarming to her. Formerly a bit of a teetotaler, she now enjoys a mid-range chardonnay and that ding-a-ling phrase, "It's 5 o'clock somewhere" while watching MSNBC. She talks to and feeds her menagerie of squirrels and birds daily. She plays word games on the phone with Loretta. 

On March 18, my tour was cut short. I sit or nap, untested, in our tiny cabin, coughing and wondering if this tightness in my chest and loss of smell is it—I had run through the death-germ gauntlet of four airports and a 20-hour, packed flight on my race home from Australia. I wonder if the eight months of steady work and shows that were cancelled will reappear before my small savings run out, if this isolated, psycho-social form of identity theft will change, or reveal, things I didn't know about myself, if this is the best or worst time to try to write that damn pilot, if art made for live gatherings will transfer to digital platforms too clumsily so we should hold tight and protect it, if Carmine and I will ever have enough money after this to build our little dream house on this lovely piece of property so that my mum has a place to land when she's ready. That's all before noon, obviously, and then I remind myself that I should just feel lucky to be healthy right now and be able to step outside if the sun comes out. I've been so freaked out and had enough nightmares that I haven't been able to watch the dark and twisted dramas streaming all day and night and can only deal with re-runs of "Little House on the Prairie" and "The Sonny and Cher Show."

Meanwhile, all of a goddamn sudden, Jeanette Jacqueline Margaret Miller Truscott's a cool cucumber.

Adrienne Truscott is a performance maker and writer who splits her time between Tivoli, Brooklyn, and anywhere a gig takes her.

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