Teri Vance: Social isolation is social responsibility

When I was in the second grade, we had a particularly harsh winter here in Nevada. Living on the Saval Ranch north of Elko, we got snowed in for more than a month.

The only contact we had with the outside world was a party-line telephone (any calls from there were long distance).

A couple of times my dad took a pack horse to the highway where he had a truck parked.

He went to each family living on the ranch to collect a list of supplies needed from town. My mom was so accustomed to making sure we were well-stocked that when my dad asked her what she needed, she responded: “Diapers and cat food.”

That only served to make my dad hate the cat even more.

But he returned home with diapers and cat food tied to his saddle.

If you want to know how those weeks stuck in the house were, it depends on who you ask.

I remember having a great time. Dad would meet the school bus driver, who delivered packets of homework from our teachers.

I loved when he’d come in, covered in snow, with bundles of homework.

I was one of those weird kids (OK, maybe not much has changed) who loved school.

So seeing a stack of sheets torn from the phonics workbook stapled together was pretty exciting. I’m not sure if I ever got around to the math worksheets ….

There were times the snow was so high we couldn’t even open the doors. But when we could get out, we could climb on top of the snow right onto the roofs of some of the ranch’s outbuildings.

We’d carry our Big Wheels to the peak of the roof and ride straight down and off the side into the piles of snow below.

It was a wonderland.

Unless you ask my mom. I was surprised as an adult to hear her talk about the difficulty of that time. It hadn’t occurred to me that it was anything but a snow-cation.

But she was a mom of four girls under 10 who were regularly going stir crazy. She had to find creative solutions to our problems.

She remembers having to bend over to reach the barrels buried in the snow to burn the trash.

She often wondered if spring would ever come.

I’m sure a lot of people can relate to her right now as the world tries to flatten the curve of the spread of the coronavirus. With the mandatory and voluntary social distancing and quarantining we’re experiencing, a lot of us are feeling isolated, and cabin fever is starting to set in.

I remember when the snow melted and I returned to school, there was a new kid in my class. When I walked in, he shouted out, “We have a new girl.”

I remember being struck by the idea that the rest of the kids’ lives had gone on while ours had stood still for a minute.

The situation we’re living through now is unique in that the whole world is experiencing the same thing at the same time. (Except for those of us whose jobs are deemed “essential.”)

And while we have been asked to stay away from each other, we have social media, video chats, texting and phone calls to stay in contact.

And we know the best way to protect one another is to maintain our distance.

Our mutual isolation is the best way to keep us connected.


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