A yellowish-gray substance wrapped in a chilled tortilla with a side of mashed strawberries and blueberries arrived around noon on Monday.
“Surprise, Daddy! We brought you lunch,” said Matteo, my 2-year-old, beaming along with his older brother, Lucca, in the doorway to my makeshift home office.
My wife had given our children strict instructions not to disturb Daddy, and, mostly, they had complied. Sure, there were the occasional high-pitched shrieks and the wallop of what sounded like the armoire tipping over and slamming onto the ceiling above me — not to mention the “Ont some waffles!” cry from Matteo every couple of hours or so.
But after heapings of coronavirus gloom from the morning news, my children’s scrambled egg offering brought more comfort than a plate of my favorite spaghetti carbonara.
I’ve never worked from home before. I’m on Day 3 and can’t imagine this isolation lasting for another two, three, four — goodness knows how many more weeks.
But we can’t really shut out the outside world. Beside the barrage of bad news — including mounting coronavirus cases in Italy, my father’s home — my wife and I worry that Matteo, who is asthmatic, might need a trip to the emergency room, as he has a dozen or so times since his birth. I’m not a particularly religious man, but I’ve prayed about that in recent days.
But like everyone else, we are adjusting to this new reality.
I’m struck by how quiet it is in the mornings — before my children awaken. Quiet enough to hear chattering sparrows and the bird song that cuts through all of that, the whit-choo, whit-choo, whit-choo! of the northern Cardinal. Signs, too, that spring is not so far off.
This morning, we were greeted by the smiling, bearded face of “Mr. Muhammad,” Matteo’s Montessori music teacher, who could be seen on my phone strumming his guitar all alone in the school’s music room. Typically, he’s accompanied by a dozen or so bouncing toddlers, including Matteo. The day before, he’d offered a yoga class as a way to help all of us to calm down a little bit.
“Can I listen to Mr. Hammad?” Matteo said, noticing the video on my phone.
Then, not fully grasping the reality of the situation, he said, “Where’s Matteo? Where’s Logan?”
Mr. Muhammad is nothing short of a rock star in our family — a guy who will only become more revered as this thing drags on.
It’s been harder to gauge how Lucca, my 8-year-old, is doing. Not long ago, he declared, “Children are dying from the coronavirus.”
He has stopped talking about the disease in recent days. And when I sat him down and asked if he’s still worried, he assured me that he isn’t.
But it’s hard to say what’s going on in that Pokemon-obsessed head of his. At times, he’s refused to sleep in the bunk bed he’d begged us for months to buy. The other day, I found him curled up asleep on the floor in his bedroom. And Lucca, like Matteo, is more insistent than ever that I read him a bedtime story every night.
On Tuesday, Lucca brought me “lunch” — two pieces of bread that appeared to have leaped out of the toaster in fear of being browned. Lucca had smeared peanut butter on one slice and made a strawberry jam smiley face on the other.
To cool the cabin fever, I announced we were going to have a backyard baseball game on my lunch break — never mind that Dad, who grew up in England, doesn’t actually know the rules of baseball. About 10 minutes later, Matteo arrived at my office door in a shirt and, from the waist down, nothing but his birthday suit.
“I want to go out and play baseball!” he shouted.
His mother, with one arched eyebrow, followed close behind holding a diaper and questioning the timing of my announcement.
“Daddy shouldn’t have brought it up now,” she said.
So we are all adjusting. What choice do we have?
FATHERHOOD: AN OCCASIONAL SERIES
This is one in an occasional series of columns on fatherhood by Sun-Times reporter Stefano Esposito, the dad of two young sons.