Sue Z. on Life in Quarantine

“Let’s try to take the best parts of slowing down.”


After months of quarantine, life sure has changed. Everyone has their stories, and I’m sure that articles and books about our present situation will be shared for years. Right now, I’m remembering humorist Erma Bombeck’s columns and books. The title of her book If Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? probably strikes a chord with a lot of us. Here’s another quip of hers: “Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.”

That’s almost true of the quarantine saga at our house. Doing the wash, fixing three meals a day, lengthy online grocery shopping (only to find that I set the delivery time to one week away, at 6 p.m.)—plus doing dishes, vacuuming, floor washing, and the nagging urge to purge the closets and storage rooms. The chores are mounting.

Here is a tiny glimpse of how I’ve handled it. And note that, pre-virus, I spent only a few waking hours at home. Even though I’m in my mid-80s, I still love to keep active and involved in the community and all it has to offer. Housework was not a high priority, just cleanliness. Plus, I was lucky enough to have some help with it. The quarantine curtailed that. A week ago, I had a larger load of wash than usual, so I grabbed the box of pellets and checked to see how many I should throw in the washer. To my surprise, I noticed that the bag said “dishwasher pellets.” (I wondered why some of our clothes had seemed less white.)

The new vacuum, which I hadn’t used too often, was my next hiccup. I pushed the “on” switch and dust balls flew out the top of this fancy, updated version. Opening and closing the dust container isn’t easy—who says new is better?

Aside from these fumbles, there are some good things to come out of staying sequestered. Like time to think. Time to take a look at your surroundings and find insight. To make time for play, for reading, for getting to know your family or friends who are in there with you. Even to make time to view and smell the flowers. This was the first spring I can remember where each bud on the trees and in the garden seemed to be performing an act outside our windows to make life seem better and brighter.

It’s truly a time to take a deep breath and evaluate what is really important. So let’s try to take the best parts of slowing down and show deep gratitude to those on the front lines making life safer and better each day. Wash your hands, wear those masks, support our restaurants as best you can. And let yourself laugh at the small missteps we’re all taking in this new reality. Another one of Erma Bombeck’s wisdoms: “When humor goes, there goes civilization.”

Sue Zelickson (Sue Z.) is a James Beard Award-winning food media personality, philanthropist, and longtime contributor to Minnesota Monthly and WCCO radio. She has founded the Charlie Awards, the Women Who Really Cook networking organization for women in the local food industry, and the Kids Cafe at Perspectives, Inc., which improves access to nutritious meals for families in need. You can find her buzzing around from event to event throughout the Twin Cities, helping to raise funds for charitable organizations, including some she has had a hand in building.

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