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LETTERS

Postcards from the pandemic

82d birthday behind glass; a hug-and-kiss kind of family tries to get by — an update on how Globe readers are coping.

Heather Hopp-Bruce; Globe Staff Illustration

How are you living day to day with the coronavirus pandemic and with social distancing measures? What’s working for you or bringing you solace? What challenges are you facing?

Send us a photo and a caption, and if you’d prefer not to share a photo, send us your “snapshot” in prose — 100 words or less. We’ll post an updated sample of submissions regularly. E-mail: letter@globe.com.

Here’s how Globe readers are coping.

Monday, April 6
From left: Son-in-law Casey Hampton, grandpup Emmett, Jeffry Stanton, and Betsy Gray.
From left: Son-in-law Casey Hampton, grandpup Emmett, Jeffry Stanton, and Betsy Gray.Lisa Gordon Photo

My sister Sheridan Haines and I moved our mother, Betsy Gray, from her lifetime home in New Jersey to memory care at The Branches of North Attleborough on Feb. 1. We all had a very difficult transition to the new normal, and then along came the coronavirus. Although we haven’t been able get in to see Mom since early March due to visitor restrictions, with the help of some amazing caregivers, we celebrated her 82d birthday safely behind glass. Despite it all — Mom’s advancing dementia and the chaos of COVID-19 — she was beaming with a smile for the first time in a long time. We all appreciated sharing this simple moment of joy with her. — Jeffry Stanton, Attleboro

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Jim Hamilton

My shelter-in-place beard, day 17. — Jim Hamilton, Marshfield

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My daughter and her husband and two children live less than a mile away. We haven’t been within 6 feet of each other in weeks. My sister-in-law has a compromised respiratory system. In the last month and a half, I’ve only seen her and her husband when we’ve been FaceTiming. The huge clan that I belong to — normally a gregarious group of hug-and-kiss brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and first, second, and third cousins — now meets only on FaceTime or Zoom to gab, keep up to date on our health, or even play trivia. Knowing we’re doing the right things isn’t making it any easier. ― Tom Corcoran, Chelmsford

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Thursday, April 2

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Elizabeth Plageman

Tuesday afternoon I woke from a nap — rather suddenly — to find my kid having a pandemic jam on the front lawn. When I went outside to stop the ruckus (it was Metallica), I noticed several passersby who were . . . clapping. I let him finish. I posted on the Milton Neighbors Facebook page. Since then, more than 400 people have liked or loved the post. My mom’s response when I texted her this story: “Tell Max this is needed. I will play my accordion outside my house [in upstate New York]. Same idea. Unity.” — Elizabeth Plageman, Milton

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I am just past 60 and have been trying for years to exercise regularly. This pandemic finally motivated me to get healthier. I’m up to 4.5 miles on my stationary bike and have only missed one day in two weeks. I feel better and have more energy. I am also doing a book club with my daughter on FaceTime (“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”) and playing board games remotely with my family via Tabletopia. — Sarah Blodgett, Concord

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Kieran Mahaffey

I like working from home because my dog always lies next to me on the couch — and sometimes likes to get in my way when I’m doing work. — Kieran Mahaffey, age 14, Westwood

Wednesday, April 1

I never liked working from home, and am reminded why daily, but I also have never appreciated the split-level splendor of my own home as I do now. There are multiple levels for my husband, my college-going son, an elderly dog, and me to share for our worldly activities. The noise travels easily, making conference calls a negotiation with the laundry and the work habits of cohabiters, but so does the camaraderie. Loss crops up around us daily in ways large and small, so I choose to gain solace in this homestead before it is consigned to the empty nest and, eventually, to another family. — Amity Kelley, Sharon

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Courtney Warren

My grandkids, Haley (age 7) and Jack (age 5), take their virtual bus to school in their home in South Berwick, Maine. — Jack Clarke, Gloucester

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Nancy Ahmadifar

As humanity lurches headlong into a dystopian viral world, the practice of noticing signs of spring affords me a degree of solace. The swelling green buds on the crabapple tree outside my window, the ceaseless medley of a mockingbird on a treetop, and the irrepressible purple crocus randomly poking up through the crusty earth assure me that life goes on. — Nancy Ahmadifar, Boston

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Johanna Bohoy

I’m blowing thousands of leaves that lingered all winter — now I have the time. Wish I could blow out the virus as easily. — Larry Berk, Beverly Farms

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Neighborhood women, socially distanced but spiritually connected, are sewing surgical masks for local first responders, as did those who came before them, making bandages at home for the front lines and hospitals during the Civil War. — Rick Mattila, Hull

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Tuesday, March 31
Handout

My son at sunset on Friday in North Truro. — Neil Leifer, Brookline

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Finally tackling that 1,000-piece puzzle I’ve had for months, while the grandfather clock ticks softly in the background, underlining the minutes we are alone. — Gina Weinberger, Lexington

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Jain Ruvidich-Higgins

I thought I would break out my rock-painting supplies and create a “souvenir” of this crazy time, not that we will soon forget. This is a coronavirus cell. Pretty, no? No! One day I will throw it into the sea, along with my fear and uncertainty, and life will begin anew. —Jain Ruvidich-Higgins, Quincy

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Allen M. Spivack

With everything shut down and shuttered, I’ve been taking two-hour walks around Jamaica Plain, including the Arnold Arboretum. I really miss hugging my friends and family. Then I decided that if I couldn’t hug them, I’d hug my favorite tree at the Arboretum, a 47-year-old giant sequoia. I made a pilgrimage to this magnificent beauty and gave it a huge hug. It felt really good. I recommend this to everyone who’s missing the human touch. And I’m sure our trees will appreciate it. — Allen M. Spivack, Jamaica Plain

Monday, March 30
Tolle Graham

Many seniors look forward to cleaning out their closets upon retirement. We, however, are cleaning out our 35-year-old basement freezer while we are practicing home isolation. It’s filled with lots of veggies from last year’s bounty from our community garden: tomatoes, corn, pepper strips, broccoli, kale, pesto, and some store-bought items. We’ve wondered about using such an old appliance that is not energy efficient. For now, though, the ability to make hearty soups and stews during the coronavirus outbreak, without frequent shopping, may be an OK lapse in our climate impact. — Tolle Graham, Jamaica Plain

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A sense of humor really helps. My wife and I have been sheltering in place as she awaited the results of the COVID-19 test she had on Saturday. We’re both in our 70s, and she volunteers for the Massachusetts 211 line. The test results came back negative today, and she’s cleared to go back to taking Mass 211 calls at the end of the week. We’re in constant touch with family and friends, and we’re watching more television than usual. Both of us are avid readers. She’s reading the beginning of “The Stand” and I’m reading “Insomnia,” both by Stephen King. — Marc D. Goldfinger, Belmont

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Robert O’Brien

Leo is practicing social distancing. — Robert O’Brien, Falmouth

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Eleanor Rubin

I live at Orchard Cove, senior housing in Canton. I’m not alone: I’m self-quarantined with my husband. Bach cello suites and my drawing table with watercolor paints brighten our anxious world. — Eleanor Rubin, Canton

Friday, March 27
Jenna McPhee

Full-time working mom bringing the classroom outside and teaching my kids that this is so much more than just about us. So many people stopped by, from a distance, to share their heartfelt stories. A neighbor shared that her daughter is a nurse on the front lines. Perspective. — Jenna McPhee, Canton

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I invited my extended family — 29 siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins — to share by e-mail their challenges and opportunities in dealing with this pandemic. Interesting to note commonalities of those living in different communities across this country. Even more interesting to learn about those dealing with a wide range of health and work-related issues. — Floyd Alwon, Needham

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Gayle H. Edson

Every time I reach for a puzzle piece, she scratches me. — Gayle H. Edson, Wakefield

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I take a power walk to the Charlestown Navy Yard each morning. On a gray day, passing the now-deserted USS Constitution, Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” queued up on my music, and I sang along as loud as I could. Felt better. — Lynne Byall Benson, Charlestown

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Carl Zukroff

While the president delivered his daily briefing last Friday (March 20), I called a mandatory meeting with my coats in the living room. They all attended: two collapsible rain slickers, one fall wool jacket, five vests, one raincoat, one long woolen dress coat, four barn coats and/or silk jackets, two jean jackets, one pea coat, two down jackets, one leather jacket, five hooded and unhooded fleece jackets. A total of 25 pieces of outerwear. Let me repeat that: 25. At the conclusion of the meeting, I decided no one needs that many. Goodwill now has the peacoat, the woolen dress coat, one barn coat, one vest, and two ill-fitting fleece jackets (unhooded). I’ll be fine. — Carl Zukroff, Brighton

Wednesday, March 25
Melody Winnig

I roam where I can on the trails and streets near my house. I have walked here for 35 years, with dogs, with friends, with grandkids, and with strangers. But now I always walk alone and create impermanent “chalk talk” markings to let other humans know we are not walking alone. — Melody Winnig, Wayland

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How am I coping? Living alone at 82 could be a challenge, but fortunately my children and their families live close by. Being somewhat computer savvy helps. Several weeks ago I took a memoir-writing workshop, so I have begun writing vignettes of my life. After reading about a free online course offered by a Yale professor, I signed up. The content deals with increasing happiness in one’s life — what a good time to do that! — Lynn Gaulin, North Attleborough

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Jim Hamilton

Shelter-in-place beard update: I’m planning on taking a picture every week until this is over. The last one was taken three days in [scroll down to March 18], so this one is from Day 10. — Jim Hamilton, Marshfield






Tuesday, March 24
Jill Harrison Berg

A few nights ago, my neighbor asked me to come out to my porch at 7 p.m., and we sang “Hey Jude” together across my yard. Now singing together has become a nightly ritual, involving growing numbers of neighbors. Let’s not practice “social distancing” exactly — let’s keep 6 feet of physical distance, but stay socially connected. So lean out your window, come out to your porch, or come stroll down the street, and #singfromsixfeet! Each night’s song is chosen by Secret Boston. — Jill Harrison Berg, Jamaica Plain

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Valerie A. Russo

I’m photographing nature at local parks and making e-greeting cards to post on Facebook for my pun-loving friends and family. — Valerie A. Russo, Weymouth

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Sarah Glover

All will be well (Burma-Shave-style). — Sarah Glover, Arlington

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Mintz Family

I am a competitive ice dancer, and all the rinks are closed. So instead, I am taking jogs and walks every day and using weights and doing abs. Another way I am keeping busy is I am running an online book club on jitsi meet. I have at least seven people, and it is a really good way to keep connected. The photo is of me trying out a computer camera. — Simon Mintz, Age 12, Lexington

Monday, March 23


Pam Hays

Finding solace going for a (short) walk in my “Garden in the Almost-Woods.” — Pam Hays, Littleton

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Maureen Atkins

During the pandemic — what really seems like the first one I’ve experienced in my almost 98 years — I am enjoying the St. Patrick’s Day flowers that my son sent me as well as the corned beef and cabbage my daughter brought me. I am keeping busy by quilting and reading my beloved Boston Globe. — Mary Murray McCarthy, West Roxbury

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Susan Dromey Heeter

We are playing “Guess the Etch Movie” on our Etch A Sketches. My “King Kong” was an easy guess. — Susan Dromey Heeter, Dover N.H.



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When my grocery store was out of the bread I usually buy, I discovered a delicious loaf I never would have bought. — Harriet Dann, Needham

Friday, March 20


Sunshine Menezes

I found this leaf stuck between the boards of my deck Wednesday. He’s social distancing, but I think he’s struggling with anxiety. It’s OK, leaf. We’re all having a hard time. I’m here for you. — Sunshine Menezes, West Kingston, R.I.

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Robert Steen, Spring Hill, Florida

I am sheltering in place. In the springs of central Florida as often as possible. That’s my kind of social distancing. Keeping the immune system tuned up and trying to make wise choices when it’s necessary to be out and about in public. Stay safe and well, everyone. — David Burn, Weeki Wachee, Florida

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Rachel Evans

For my dad’s 86th birthday, we filled all the bird feeders at his nursing home, spoke on the phone, and waved through the window. He thinks this quarantine is nonsense. (The image is through his window, with a reflection of us and the bird-feeders.) — Rachel Evans, Somerville

Thursday, March 19

My gym recently closed, which means no more tennis indoors for a while. Very disappointing. Went for a lovely, sunny, and calm walk along the river. Two tennis courts sat unused, with a couple perched outside on a bench, holding their rackets. Why weren’t they playing? Did someone forget the balls? After a bit, they left. My husband and I checked out the courts. The gates were locked. We checked out the lonely playground nearby without screaming kids. Also locked. This is all like a bad movie. When will it end? — Nanda Calla, Chelsea Waterfront

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Julian Kenneth Braxton

I read an article once in The New York Times titled, “You Should Actually Send That Thank You Note You’ve Been Meaning to Write.” Well, this time at home, away from my daily work schedule, has given me the time to write those thank you notes — finally! My plan is to write a note a day during the weeks to come. I will be writing mentors, former teachers, ministers, and even authors who have inspired me. But I am starting off with a thank you note to my academic dean of studies. She has been preparing the faculty for the online teaching and learning we are about to embark on with our students after spring break. Indeed, even during this time of uncertainty, I have so much to be thankful for. — Julian Kenneth Braxton, Boston

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Maria Photinakis

I’m a local cartoonist and I’ve been keeping a visual journal of what life has been like during all this social distancing. It’s a crucial way of keeping records for my daughter for when she’s older (when she hopefully won’t remember this), and to keep myself sane. I’m posting them online and I am amazed at how much my thoughts and experiences help buoy others — we are all in this together. — Maria Photinakis, Waltham

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The first time I took a weeklong silent retreat at a monastery in the 1980s, I felt like a religious hotshot. Solitude — no crockpot, no squabbles, no traffic — was mine. Within 24 hours, I became furious. Why was no one speaking to me? Why were they all so rude — monks and everyone? Be patient. Wait for God. Baloney, I thought. Alone, I prayed and wrote letters of rage and sorrow to God. Slowly, a surge of safety and truth, wrapped in silence, rose up inside me. I met my self. Is there a “retreat” in social distancing? — The Rev. Lyn Gillespie Brakeman, Cambridge


Wednesday, March 18

A scene from last Friday, as reality and panic set in, and I stood in the Trader Joe’s checkout line: The woman behind me, a tense scramble of fear, stage-whispered into her phone, “There’s a cart in front of me with four-dozen eggs!” I turned to her, smiled, and said calmly, “I don’t mean to eavesdrop, but this is normal for my shopping cart. I’m picking up my son from college. He eats four eggs every morning.” — Ann Marie Lindquist, Lexington

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Jane Stabile

Last night we enjoyed a family dinner at our home in Cambridge with our three daughters and their families, who never left their homes in Wakefield, Plymouth, and Ashland. Everybody set their own table (we used the best dishes, and candles), made dinner, and everyone sat down to eat at 6:30, signed into Google Hangouts (but any meeting software would do). Maybe next time we will all cook the same meal. — Jane Stabile, Cambridge

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Sara Buttrick

A work in progress: stenciling my bathroom. — Sara Buttrick, Maynard

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Jim Hamilton

The last public event I attended was church on Sunday. I do not intend to shave again until things are back to normal. I call it my “shelter-in-place” beard. — Jim Hamilton, Marshfield






Tuesday, March 17
Tracy Relle

Staying in Carrabassett Valley, Maine. While Sugarloaf may be closed, there is plenty of hiking to be had and solace to be found in the woods.

Tracy Relle

And coming home to this chucklehead (Chester) doesn’t hurt. Wishing everyone well during this crazy time.

Tracy Relle, Carrabassett Valley, Maine

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Paul E. Greenberg

Gun sales are way up. A sense of panic. Fear everywhere. Lives disrupted. No end in sight. But amid the chaos, any island of sanity is all the more appreciated. In normal times, Trader Joe’s in Coolidge Corner is a popular destination. But in these abnormal times, it is absolutely inundated with worried shoppers. And yet, five minutes before it opened one morning, the spontaneous order of a long single-file line reminded me that people are capable of civilized behavior even in trying times. Very reassuring.

Paul E. Greenberg, Brookline

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Beth Gamse

By trying to find humor somewhere, anywhere.

Beth Gamse, Cambridge







Matthew Bernstein is the Globe’s letters editor. He can be reached at matthew.bernstein@globe.com and on Twitter at @GlobeBernstein.