“We have less than one hour to evacuate every single item in these two rooms. This is not a drill. I need emergency mode. Now go! Go! Gooo!!!!
It had been a normal day. The kids and I were just doing our usual thing. Then my husband, a firefighter, called to tell me that he’d been directly exposed to COVID-19 on a medical call and was being sent home to quarantine.
This was in the very, very early days of America’s COVID-19 outbreak, when the country was still trying to figure out what this new virus really was – and how to handle it. There were no set policies or procedures. All we knew was that this thing was spreading fast and it could be deadly.
Aside from what I’d seen in (horrifying) movies, I knew nothing about how to quarantine someone.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to know anything. They recommended we section off an area of the house where Tony could COVID quarantine without putting anyone else at risk, and seal off the air flow. We didn’t have to strip everything, but if he did come up positive, we were told we’d have to sterilize everything in the room – hence the desire to remove everything that wasn’t nailed down.
And since he’d be home in one hour, that’s how long we had to get it all done.
That’s how the kids and I found ourselves frantically gutting the rooms at the back of our house. We evacuated the master bedroom, bathroom, and the office with the outside door, so he could access the space without climbing through a window.
By the time Tony got home, the rooms were completely barren and the space had been sealed off with thick plastic, duct tape and a staple gun.
Total to set up a complete COVID quarantine unit: one hour, one very sweaty parent and three exhausted kids.
Despite the stress, fear and uncertainty of that moment, I couldn’t help but enjoy how well our family worked together to get it done.
And when I thought back on how we did it, I couldn’t help but credit our many experiences with family travel.
Our family has gained many skills from frequently traveling together. (Admittedly, an ability to rapidly stage a quarantine unit was never one I would have predicted, but I’m sure glad we were prepared.)
Travel taught us to adjust rapidly to unexpected circumstances – like when you pull into the only town for hundreds of miles and it turns out there are no hotel vacancies, thanks to an unexpected oil boom. And the only other option is a crumbling old motel out in the desert that looks like it materialized directly out of a Stephen King novel.
Travel taught us to be ok with temporary discomfort, like when you’re stuck on a long-haul Chinese bus and your child comes down with an intense case of food poisoning, courtesy of the previous night’s frog soup.
Travel taught us how to focus, follow direction and work as a team, like when the plane’s leaving in two minutes and I don’t think this is even the right terminal dag nabbit!!!
As for our family’s first (and hopefully only) quarantine, this was just the beginning. The two weeks that followed that first chaotic day continued to call for immense flexibility, as we adjusted to keeping one parent like a caged bird, while managing homeschool and mom’s virtual office work, all in one shared common room (so many virtual meetings!). And don’t even get me started on the sleeping arrangements.
But we adjusted, like we always do.
We even started enjoying parts of it, like family dinners at the picnic table outside Tony’s window. I still look back on those times fondly.
Two weeks and a clean COVID test later, we were able to move everything back to normalcy. Although that time was by no means easy, we made it through. Because ultimately, if we can survive 12-day road trips, we can survive anything. Even quarantine.