I stuff my feet in my boots and race out of the house, taking swigs of protein shake at stoplights en route to the office. Hitting snooze a fourth time was clearly a mistake.
That’s how most of my mornings looked at the top of the year. Some days meant working longer than usual, thanks to the hustle and bustle of the state legislature. One day I made it home around 2 a.m., after slogging through a 16-hour bill hearing.
When work did end “early,” I’d head to Denver to indulge in dinner or happy hour with my partner or friends, often arriving home only to crawl into bed. I can’t even remember the last time, pre-COVID, that I sat down for a full meal with my parents in our Centennial digs.
A couple months ago, catching my breath felt impossible. And then, just like that, we were told to pack up our laptops to telework for at least the next two weeks. Little did I know two weeks would stretch into two months.
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My mom works from home full-time, so possibly the strangest (and I’d like to imagine, delightful) part of the new arrangement for her was seeing much more of me. My dad’s management team is hell-bent on having eyes on their employees around the clock, pressuring my dad to commute for weeks after I was green-lit to work from the safety and comfort of our home. It wasn’t until I kicked up a ruckus over his situation that my dad joined our teleworking scheme, while continuing to reserve Mondays for office visits.
Quarantining with mom and dad in this strange new world might, for some adults, seem like a suffocating prospect. For me, it has been a source of great comfort.
Family time went from an item to be checked off an endless to-do list to a ritualistic experience. Crosswords at teatime, savoring South Indian fare—like dad’s crispy dosas paired with mom’s coconut chutney, swapping stories about our todays and strategizing for our tomorrows, revisiting plans we’d charted out pre-coronavirus to keep our sights set on the light at the end of the tunnel, and capping off the day with a TV show or movie.
One Saturday evening my dad recommended “Harlem Nights”; we barely made it halfway before my mom, impressionable as ever, chain-mumbled F-letter words in the spirit of the film.
One of my favorite quarantine rituals has been the neighborhood walks we enjoy on more ambitious evenings. We head out shortly before 8 o’clock, so that our howls for frontline workers meet the rest of the pack’s, secretly hoping this byproduct of the pandemic lasts forever. And, when the noise dies down again, dad wastes no time to revive it, cutting through the yawn of the suburbs by belting out Bob Dylan’s lyric, “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more.” Maybe this is his subversive way of sending a message to his boss.
That’s not to say we haven’t had our tense moments. Like, when did I become the helicopter parent of my parents? Urging them to shower immediately upon returning from anywhere, policing their movements when others get too close on our walks—warning of “stranger danger” and our neighbors’ tendency to buck the COVID social contract. Or for that matter, the day we decided only pizza from Mama Louise, the local Italian joint, could squash our quarantine blues, so I spent an annoyingly long time mapping out pick-up protocols.
One particularly trying quarantine day was when my mom, who’s suffered from lifelong asthma, woke up with just about every COVID-19 symptom, sending my dad and me into a panic. Awaiting her test results while she self-isolated, a lump formed in my throat as my dad broke down, telling me that he prays that God transfer the pain to him if anything bad happens to any of us, so that he can bear it instead.
This moment not only reminded me that I alone can’t save my parents no matter how hard I try—it was also a glimpse of the real, unwavering, ride-or-die love of my family.
For being housebound this long, we’ve managed to make every day an adventure. We’ve built a world of our own to weather the storm. A world where my parents have become more than my protectors; they’ve become my companions. This time together has revealed to me the dreams, vulnerabilities, and quirks of two colorful humans whose stories began long before I knew them.
So, as we enter our new normal, I’ll make sure my days and weeks on the other side of the pandemic hold sacred space for the two people who’ve been by my side since the beginning—two people who I’m honored to call my friends.
Aditi Ramaswami is a public policy professional who lives in Centennial.