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West Carroll: In the coronavirus pandemic, is this ‘writer’s garret’ big enough for the two of us?

In March last year, we were wondering if spring would ever arrive, West Carroll columnist Gabrielle Schoeffield writes. This year, at least for her, weather is insignificant compared to the coronavirus crisis.
In March last year, we were wondering if spring would ever arrive, West Carroll columnist Gabrielle Schoeffield writes. This year, at least for her, weather is insignificant compared to the coronavirus crisis. (Gabrielle Copeland Schoeffield/Courtesy photo)

This time last year, we were wondering if spring would ever arrive. This year, at least for me, weather is insignificant compared to the coronavirus crisis.

As a writer, I have a “writer’s garret” set up with all the comforts (and easy access to the refrigerator). I worked on my manuscripts during school hours. I was comfortable with this arrangement until the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, caused the closing of all public schools statewide on March 12.

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I suddenly found myself sharing my space with a teenager. I needed to get a handle on the situation before it got out of control. 

We sat down and made a schedule that mirrored her daily school routine. It included five-minute breaks between classes and a generous lunchtime. It was the perfect combination of learning and recreation.

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Of course, as Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland, wrote in his poem “To a Mouse”: “ The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley…” (translated as the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry). My carefully detailed plan to survive the time school was to be closed were vaporized by day two. I now began to worry that I may have to homeschool. I was not prepared or trained for that reality. I prayed that, if the schools remained closed, a distance learning option would be available.

I have music on in the background, listening to the big-band sounds of Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Count Bassie. Occasionally, when Nat King Cole or the Andrews Sisters comes on, I hear my teen singing along. I’m not surprised when she announces she likes “swing” music.

I am lucky to have internet access. I can access a myriad of websites bursting with ideas for upcoming novels as well as fact-checking everything I hear before passing it on. I continue to stay in touch with friends and family on a global scale through the various social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The world at my fingertips!

One change in my routine came with the closing of the library. I read a lot across all genres.  When schools closed, I didn’t realize the libraries would close as well. I found myself without any books to read. I researched an alternative outlet and found that, if you have a valid library card, you can access the Maryland Digital e-Library Consortium, at https://maryland.overdrive.com/, where you can  join a book discussion, listen to an author interview, or check out an e-book or audio book. 

We have plenty to keep us busy. Yet there is a silence that comes with the COVID-19 crisis that is deafening. My teen plays varsity lacrosse for the Francis Scott Key Lady Eagles. The team had won their preseason scrimmages and were pumped for the regular season to get underway. But now there is no afterschool practices. No team bonding time. For the parents, there is no sitting in the stands together cheering our girls on as we enjoy watching them play lacrosse, a game we have grown passionate about watching as much as the girls have become passionate about playing.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed us in some way? Absolutely! I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. We fill up the hours we normally would spend writing (for me) or in school (for my teen). While we are still living life to the fullest (as best we can), we can’t help but be just a little on edge. We continue to remain positive with high hopes the situation changes for the better soon.

In an effort to stay informed on the current status of the COVID-19 crisis, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or call 800-232-4636, or visit the CDC’s FAQ page at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html.

To stay informed with regard to Maryland-specific information check out Gov. Larry Hogan’s official website at https://governor.maryland.gov/.

Gabrielle Schoeffield covers Taneytown, Union Bridge, New Windsor and surrounding areas. Reach her at gabrielle.copeland.schoeffield@gmail.com.

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