Alice had a couple of red bumps on her skin, three in a row on her hip, and she was complaining about how they itched. Six-year-olds are notorious complainers about their health and so we ignored it but then I noticed a bunch of little black dots on her sheets. The dots weren’t moving or anything, they definitely weren’t alive, but when I started googling bedbugs I learned that one of the most obvious signs of them, besides bites on your skin often “in a straight row or line, consisting of three or four bites,” is “black fecal spots” on sheets. When I rubbed one of the black dots, it smeared. With cold dread in my heart I took her bed apart, washed everything in it, and put the sheets back on.
The next morning, new black dots had appeared. I called an exterminator (they are an essential service, fyi). The woman on the phone asked me to email her a picture of the dots, so I went upstairs and took a picture of the bed. Then I went back downstairs to crop it and send it to the exterminator.
Top: Alice’s bed. Bottom: Bedbug fecal spotting. I mean.
As I was cropping my picture, I idly realized that what I was cropping out of it was Unicorn Adventure Scratch and Sketch, a scratch art book.
“Alice!” I said with joy rising in my heart. “Have you been doing scratch art at night?”
“Yes,” she said. “Should I not be doing that?”
The smeary black dots were not bedbug feces!! They were scratch art flecks. It was the best COVID-19 experience we have had. I was happy for like one whole hour.
A local mother I follow on social media posted some beautiful pictures of her family at a beautiful, empty, rocky beach. She did not tag the location, however, and when people asked her where it was, multiple different times and different ways, in the comments, she got VAGUE. Resentment is pretty much my state of being these days (something Evie Ebert wrote so well about here) but on top of it I felt a dull rage. I knew that this family lives in the city and I knew that this was not their private beach, it was instead a public place that (I now felt) they were both bragging about and hoarding, and I wanted to go there. I didn’t need to reverse google image search, however, because one commenter — maybe one who was feeling the same way as me, or maybe I am the only bad person — went right ahead and identified where they were!
For the record the place is [X]* in [X], and I took the kids the very next day. It was 40 degrees and rained for most of the drive. (This was how all of April was in Boston, because of course it was.) We stopped at Kane’s in Saugus, the one with the drive-thru. (We’ve ended up there pretty much once a week for the past seven weeks. Now that it’s May 1, the monthly specials have changed and the new one is Vanilla M&M, the picture of which Alice and Hugh have been salivating over in the Kane’s header of the Toast Takeout app, so maybe we will have to go again today.)
At [X], the rain had mostly stopped, and although it was still very cold, it was beautiful. Also almost completely empty. We parked next to a car that I think somebody was living out of. Down on the beach, the kids ran around and yelled at me for not bringing beach toys. Alice found a broken spoon, just the spoon part, in the sand (which I am now kind of wondering if it was a drug spoon) and started using it as a shovel; then they fought over the “shovel.” Eileen slept in the stroller the entire time.
*After this newsletter was published, I received an email from a subscriber who was angry that I publicized this beach. While I disagree *adamantly* with social media policing of outdoor spaces that are open legally and that people visit while following legal guidelines — I think it’s a totally misdirected form of anger, as the rest of this newsletter should make clear, but I certainly sympathize with being angry at things we feel as if we can sort of control in the face of an overwhelming lack of leadership from our federal government —I have removed the location from the *public* version of this newsletter, out of respect to town residents. I may be petty but I’m not trying to actively be an asshole, which this may have veered too close to being, and I’m also not in the mood for a social media shitstorm in the event that this goes viral for the wrong reason.
If the way we act in a crisis reveals who we really are, I worry daily that Covid has revealed that actually I am not a great person. In the past eight weeks, I have come close to hitting Hugh multiple times; I’ve said “Jesus fucking Christ Eileen” to my newborn; I’ve both marveled at Alice’s near-relentless cheerfulness and wanted to, spitefully, say something that would quash it, just get her to stop talking for one fucking minute. I feel surges of rage every hour, at anyone who appears to be enjoying isolation more than we are, or doing it better than we are (all through the lens of social media, of course). I read everything I can find about Sweden (not a change from before, really). When Boston mayor Marty Walsh chided “millennials” for not wanting to wear masks because they don’t look “cool,” I was angry for a full day (I am now angry about it again): It’s the “millennials” who are wearing the masks and trying to make their own young children keep them on. I am not worried about trying to make my aging, postpartum body look cool, although I cannot wait to get to the point when I can do that again, if that point ever arrives.
Today I took the kids to the park. We sat by the pond, which is toward the bottom of a big hill, and let them take off their masks and drink some water. We were at least 15 feet away from anyone, and then an older woman yelled down the hill at us: “I hope they’re wearing masks.” I just stared at her, because was this really happening, but also, I mean, obviously they weren’t wearing masks? “ARE THEY TWO? I DON’T THINK SHE’S TWO,” the woman yelled, referring to Alice. The Massachusetts order that goes into place on Wednesday says all kids over two have to wear them if you can’t socially distance. I wanted to scream “IT’S IF YOU CAN’T SOCIALLY DISTANCE,” and my addled brain was thinking “It starts Wednesday” and “wait but we have masks, they’re just not on right this very second.” Also “my gigantic almost four-year-old also clearly isn’t two, you fuck.”
The kids were oblivious to this all, “feeding” the ducks pieces of grass, which the ducks were not interested in but obligingly checked out every time. I said nothing, I just looked at her from far away and wished for her death, and she kept going on her solitary walk. When it was time for us to move on, I made the kids put their masks on, turning my back on the stroller momentarily. Hugh was whining, as usual, about the mask, while I yelled at him and forced the straps around his ears under his scooter helmet, and then he suddenly pointed and I looked behind me and the stroller, with Eileen in it, was rolling right down the hill toward the pond. I ran and grabbed it when it was about a foot away. It would have been fine. It would all have been fine, but. “Thank you, thank you for telling me even though you were so mad at me,” I said to him. We went home, sniping all the way. When we got there I turned them over to Kevin and, on this beautiful 75 degree day, lay in bed with the covers over my head for one hour, just hating that mask woman.