Hello Old Friends – Coronavirus Stories

Hello. It’s me. It’s been so long since I’ve written a blog it’s taken awhile to remember how this all works – how to download the photos, navigate the website, and even log in to my account. After getting lost a few times I eventually found my way and here I am.

It was Orson Welles who convinced me to return. I found a poster taped to the inside of a cabinet door at the condo in Roanoke, Virginia where Rich and I are riding out our days during the pandemic.

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but they produced, Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? ~ The Cuckoo Clock, Orson Welles from the Plainwell Philosophers Series

Orson Wells

I read this as a message that if you have a desire to write there is no better time to do it than during difficult times.

You may recall I have opinions. As Barbara Kingsolver once said: “I don’t understand how any good art could fail to be political. Good fiction creates empathy. A novel takes you somewhere and asks you to look through the eyes of another person, to live another life. Literature sucks you into another psyche. So the creation of empathy necessarily influences how you’ll behave to other people. How can that not affect you politically? We have an obligation to take it seriously – and I do. Perhaps that’s why I’m marked.”

We came to Roanoke to work and to escape the long winter in Vermont. A friend we met last year and did some work for in Florida has a condo here and it’s in need of some TLC before he sells it.

Virginia Highway

Virginia Highway

We hit the road just as the first cases of coronavirus in the U.S. were being reported. One month later we are still here. There is plenty of work and we are grateful for the opportunity to earn a paycheck. The Sugarhouse where I work back at home in Vermont is a gym with a swimming pool at the Mount Snow ski area and is now closed indefinitely. The 2nd homeowners who provide most of Rich’s work have left their homes in NY, NJ, and Connecticut and are hiding out in the Green Mountains. We are hiding out in Roanoke.


Downtown Roanoke

Rich is stripping wallpaper, painting, and taking care of needed repairs. I am cleaning quite the mess left by a former tenant. My housekeeping resume is solid. It began the summer I was seventeen and worked as a chambermaid at a Howard Johnson’s along Route 95 just outside of Providence. When Rich and I left Florida we ran a Bed & Breakfast in Connecticut for a year. If you’re new to my blog those stories are here in The Innkeepers Journal and Walking – 365 Days, a chronicle of my two years in Florida. Since moving to Vermont, along with my job as a receptionist I also take on occasional housekeeping gigs at ski condo rentals. Not long after Trump got elected I stopped blogging but there are a few Stories From Higley Hill, which is where we now live.

Sheltering in place is strange when you’re doing it in someone else’s home but Rich and I are restless wanderers, seekers of adventure and variety. We have heard there is still snow on the ground in Vermont and we missed a snowstorm a couple of weeks ago. It is springtime in Roanoke. There are flowering trees, a variety of birdsong, and happy hour on the deck. We are ten minutes from the Blue Ridge Mountains where we follow our shadows along hiking trails that we have mostly to ourselves, along with the birds and the deer.

Besides cleaning I am organizing. Making room in closets and cupboards for things that were piled on the floors and tables. To put it in real estate lingo, I am working with what is here to stage the condo for showings. There were plenty of empty boxes scattered around so I carefully pack old mementoes and only toss out what is clearly junk – empty plastic grocery bags, Q-tips on the floor and carpeting (don’t ask, I never got an answer from the tenant), empty toilet paper rolls, (if only they were full – it’s been impossible to find toilet paper). Worn out mottled tupperware without matching lids, empty takeout food containers under the coffee table (more on that later). 

I myself am a sentimental hoarder and can barely part with my own possessions like  every drawing my daughters ever made and old souvenirs from long ago vacations. The Orson Wells message taped to the door of a cupboard that is filled with photo albums looks exactly like a cupboard in our master bedroom in Vermont so I am leaving it as is. These are not my lifetime of memories. I’m just creating order and trying to make it easier for our friend when he can escape his own days of isolation and get to Roanoke to retrieve his precious memorabilia. There is something very satisfying about creating order in this time of chaos.

Photo albums

Some of my earlier coronavirus stories are on my Instagram page. The link is to your right along with the links to my books if you’re looking for a good read during these quiet days.

In order for a blog to reach more readers it needs participation in the form of Likes and Comments which has something to do with algorithms and other technical things that are not my strong point. I do know it has to do with reader participation so please hit the Like button and/or share your stories during these difficult days in the comments section below. Join the conversation. I need to know you are out there.

BTW – Does anyone know the name of those purple flowering trees that are in full bloom in Virginia right now?

6 thoughts on “Hello Old Friends – Coronavirus Stories

  1. Okay, so my lengthy comment mysteriously disappeared into ether so I’ll try again. If I can remember what I wrote. Color me [ticked] off and frustrated.

    Obviously, we keep in touch almost daily via other avenues, but I am incredibly delighted and thrilled to see you blogging. I hope that this is the beginning of a return to your old pathway. Your writing is without fail intelligent, thoughtful, heartfelt, and opinionated (Which I LOVE LOVE LOVE, even in the times when we do not agree).

    I have seen what wonders that you and Rich have wrought in this condo, but am deeply touched to see the photo of memorabilia lovingly preserved. Your friend will return to a home restored to its former beauty and welcoming, and he will probably never realize the level of work that went into it.

    I am ever grateful that I fell upon your blog several years ago, dipped into your writing, purchased your wonderful and beautifully written books, and developed an abiding friendship.

    To better days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Connie. I procrastinated over hitting send all afternoon. I edited and re-edited. I didn’t know if my tone was right. Do we need to be cheerful or do we need to be brutally honest? After I hit send I went to the New York Times and saw the latest headline: “Trump effectively ousts the top watchdog for the $2 trillion in virus relief.” I screamed and swore out loud. Then my older daughter called from Colorado and we talked about building the tiny tree house in the back yard and planting the organic garden when she leaves Colorado after graduation next year. We are fantasizing about going off the grid. Being sustainable. Dropping out of society. My younger daughter called earlier and her Covid-19 mask making is working at a professional assembly line level. I’m so proud of both my girls but I’m worried about the future they will live in. These are trying times and I’m trying to make the center hold as Yeats once said. Writing helps, for now.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When i read Heather Cox Richardson this morning, about the atrocity in Wisconsin, I went into a tailspin. This ever optimistic being crashed. I deleted my podcasts (except for my son’s of course, about music, not politics), took all news sites off my “favorites” sites, and stopped reading most news stories. For my sanity.

    I wrote this to my brother this morning:
    “I stopped watching some time ago. Ruins my day. I also unsubscribed to podcast and news e-mails. I’ve stopped reading most articles and no longer check news sites.
    After this morning reading about Wisconsin’s disenfranchisement ploy, I wanted to cry, crawl back to bed and stay there. I thought back to the days when I was far more ignorant about current affairs and, I think, better off. Selfish, I know, but there you are. I’m drained and exhausted, as are most thinking folks these days.”

    I don’t know what to do any more.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Welcome Back to your “WRITE-FUL PLACE,” Sheila Blanchette!

    I have missed your humorous, timely and beautifully written blog posts these past few years, and was DELIGHTED to receive your new posting yesterday. Upon discovering it, I shouted, “Yeah Baby” so loud in the kitchen that I made my husband and Golden Retriever jump!

    You and I have exchanged emails before. I contacted you several years ago for publishing advice as I am an aspiring childrens book writer living in Duxbury, MA. My husband and I moved here from Sudbury in 2017 after spending fourteen wonderful years raising our family there. One of our favorite memories was taking our three kids to the Blanchette’s house to cuddle and play with their latest litter of Golden Retriever puppies! Your brother and his wife were always so kind to share those precious babies with us, and we will never forget it!

    Fast forward to now, and hindsight is definitely NOT 2020! Like you and yours, NONE of us saw this coming. Like everyone, we wonder WHEN or IF life will ever feel the same again?

    Our pregnant daughter and son-in-law live in Jersey City, NJ, while our two sons live in Manhattan. All four work in NYC. Like scores of young people, our kids are living in the EYE of this pandemic storm, and experiencing historic events. Compared to the quiet coastal town we live in, our kids reside in a shuttered urban environment that we can only imagine.

    From his rooftop in Hell’s Kitchen, our son John sends us amazing videos panning the skyline as CHEERS erupt from surrounding residents leaning out windows and balconies to THANK nurses coming off their 7 am to 7 pm shifts! His girlfriend is a nurse at Sloane Kettering , and while SK is the city’s top Cancer Research hospital, she says they’ve had to move cancer patients around to create entire floors for people with COVID 19 . A few blocks away, our middle son, Michael, says he gets woken up a lot at night because people are drag racing on empty streets outside his window! During ZOOM cocktail hours, our children lift us up with their stories, their resilience, and their humor. As a family, we feel incredibly lucky and deeply grateful to be healthy, safe, and still employed. But as a mother, I can’t help but worry about the emotional toll this crisis is taking on my children? I especially worry about my pregnant daughter and youngest son who have careers in Finance. Each day brings a plethora of stress and mounting obstacles to their computer screens as they grapple with tanking markets and economic mayhem.! They are getting pummeled on a daily basis and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it! Except pray. So I do that. A lot.

    In closing, I am happy to hear that you and Rich are quarantining in beautiful Virginia. Enjoy this respite from Vermont weather, and stay safe, eat great food, drink great wine, laugh and keep writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Amy, thank you so much for this wonderful comment. What a boost on a really difficult day in America. I was feeling really down and losing hope. I hope all your kiddos stay safe and healthy in NYC. Our daughters are in Missoula, Montana and Breckenridge, CO and I just split my social security check this month with them so they could pay rent as they’re both out of work in the days of the pandemic. Let’s hope there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel we’ve been traveling through since January 2016.

      Liked by 1 person

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