Last week my sixteen-year-old daughter Lucia went to an academic summer program in Psychology in Boston for a week. It was her first time doing something like this — flying on her own, going to a program with no one she knows, studying psychology, living in a dorm.
When Lucia got home she was exhausted and sniffly. She and her new friends from all over the country had bonded. She told us how the night before she got home she and her friends had stayed up all night watching the second season of Outer Banks and ordering pizza at 4 am. I wasn’t surprised that she felt under the weather.
But that evening Lucia’s best friend from camp, a young woman from Texas, called to tell her that she’d tested positive for COVID. Though vaccinated, she was indeed positive and had similar symptoms to my daughter-- fatigue, sore throat, runny nose. Then it was revealed that Lucia’s roommate, a sixteen-year-old from Florida, who was unvaccinated, was also feeling ill.
Our household went on high alert. Lucia went to her basement bedroom away from us and, in between irate emails and phone calls to the camp, I served her food and drink masked from the doorway until we could get her tested. Her symptoms got worse and my worry grew. Of our family members, I had been the most exposed to Lucia. I drove in the car from the airport and spent time hanging out with her when she got home. My partner Nancy had only seen her for a few minutes so she had minimal risk. Our household was a germ zone-- we were all isolating from each other, sleeping in separate rooms and masking all the time.
The day after Lucia got home was a Sunday and we couldn’t find anywhere to get a test for under $200 so we just rode it out in our masked fortress until Monday morning. We ate dinner outside on those nights before we could all get tested, each of us sitting in an Adirondack chair balancing a plate of food on our knees in a six-foot-sided isosceles triangle.
Besides that, I didn’t see Lucia very much. We’d FaceTime once or twice a day but she was isolated and untouchable. After a week away I wanted to ply her with questions, ask her what she’d learned, hug and kiss her, but I couldn’t. I checked in with Lucia several times a day to see what she needed. I brought her fruit plates and crudite. I delivered popsicles and orange juice. I made her trays of peppermint tea with a side of ibuprofen and a thermometer. I was worried about Lucia being sick but a part of me loved the opportunity to take care of her.
On the second night of isolation during our outside dinner, Lucia was really chatty. She’d been alone in her room for hours on end and seemed desperate to chat. Though she was still feeling very tired and congested, she opened up about some of her deep thoughts. I imagined her during the day, lying in her bed, bored of TV and social media, all of these ideas, wonders, questions emerging with no one to talk to.