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Social Distancing Lessons from my Ten Year Old Self

By Rosanna LaBonte

As I have watched my children deal with the sudden loss of life-as-they-knew-it this last month, it reminds me of the summer of 1968 when my father woke up one morning and dropped dead.  My mother had died five years before. We were in a rental beach cottage with my stepmother, when the phone rang early in the morning.  By the time the fog had burned off, I had become a ward of the state. Then, as now, there were logistics to figure out. How to get home.  Should we drive or take public transportation?  Would I be able to enter fourth grade at my school in the fall?  Who would go to the grocery store? People dropped food off in a cooler on the porch.

My stepmother, who had married my father 18 months before his death, became my court-appointed guardian.  She and my older sister retreated into their own worlds of grief, and I was mostly left to my own devices.  I  took long walks on the beach with our dog.  I made a quick point pillow of a spouting whale.  I reorganized and labeled my shell collection.  I played solitaire. I worked on jigsaw puzzles. I wrote silly songs to sing to myself, played music and read a lot. I spent hours staring out the bay window of my bedroom, watching the comings and goings in the street below.

We stayed home. We stopped going to stores or eating out. Orders were called in.  Groceries and cases of toilet paper and gin were delivered.  Life never did go back to the way we were after that.  There was a new normal.  I learned to face adversity and uncertainty and keep moving forward. I learned that all we have is now.  I repeatedly benefited from the kindness of strangers. I learned to entertain myself and make my own fun.  I escaped into books and crafts and music. I learned to make do with what we had on hand. 

So flash forward 50 + years.  Who’s ready for a pandemic?  It turns out I have been social distancing for decades, without realizing there was a name for it. Subconsciously, the ten-year-old in me is always preparing for a sudden loss of life the way I knew it.  Our shelves are always stocked and I have everything delivered. People use to think it was odd – but who’s crazy now?

Rosanna LaBonte at age 10

I find myself telling my children that even though this isn’t the spring and summer that they had planned, they are learning the same valuable life lessons I learned when I was 10.   That after they come through this, they will be able to handle most anything.  I know that they are experiencing disappointments now, but going forward, other trips and events will mean so much more, because they now know what it’s like to go without. They are learning how to cope with circumstances that are beyond their control and focus on what they are lucky to have. I couldn’t have prepared them better for their futures any other way.

As a cancer and a stroke survivor, I know I will not be first in line for a ventilator should COVID-19 come knocking on my door,  but I’m OK with that.  I have lived the life I imagined.  I can stay home and do my part, for as long as it takes. You can’t inconvenience me enough to save others.  I have everything I need to get by.  I guess I have my father to thank for that.

About the Writer

Rosanna LaBonte   – Bucket Age 23 – lives outside of Boston in an empty nest with her husband and three dogs on a Lavender Farm.  She has spent the pandemic reading, walking her dogs, working on crosswords & jigsaws, baking, knitting, wearing out her AirPods, writing and placing online orders.  You can see what she  is up to on her blog


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