TV pundits assure us that every hardship–even a pandemic–has a silver lining. Eventually.

For now at least, our household has settled in for the long haul because of the coronavirus.


I know it’s deadly, but every time they show another graphic of it, all I can see are the  squishy toys Maggie loved as a child. Her car seat fussiness ceased if I handed her one of those globby things. She smiled, her tiny hands reaching for the round thing that often had rubber pointy-tips.

I kept a stash of them in neon colors.

Some lighted up.

The ones with glitter delighted her the most.

Once you’ve been a parent dependent on a child’s happiness (OK, silence), you never go back.

When Maggie’s non-profit in Detroit closed its public outreach because of the virus, Cliff brought her home. She now works in her bedroom all day on her computer. I assume they have zoom meetings because I hear voices coming from her room.

Don’t ask me to explain it. I’m old enough to remember switchboards, party lines, my grandparents’ wooden wall phone. Technology’s current bells and whistles mystify me.


In the evenings, the three of us circle together. Restaurant: Impossible is always popular. When plate-smashing and profit and loss discussions wear thin, we try HGTV until we can’t decide between marble and granite countertops either. TV only gets you so far.

20200328_195135So we turn to cards. We’re not a competitive family fortunately. It’s basically a backdrop for conversation and good-natured teasing. I’m the go-to target because historically anything with numbers upends me. At some point if I’m looking a bit woozy, Cliff or Maggie will offer, “But if this game was about punctuation, you’d win every round.”

Last night Cliff suggested Monopoly. Maggie shivered and said it traumatized her as a child. Then she explained the game’s origins as a reflection of America’s capitalistic power structure. I suppose there was something about white male privilege. Gentrification’s evils probably got mentioned, too, not that she’s wrong. She knows this kind of stuff cold–all the result of a liberal arts education.

“Clue? Do we still have that?” I asked, desperately hoping her dedication to Law & Order: SVU might have had its origins in the board game. She expressed doubt that we’d remember how to play it.


I might be old, but I can still read instructions.

Last night on the news, they showed us neighborhoods, instead of germs, and the creative approaches to stay-in-place orders. Households put stuffed animals in windows to entertain other families out for a walk. The search delights children.

Once you’ve been a parent dependent on a child’s happiness…

Because we live on a street where folks frequently stroll by these days, I set one of Maggie’s stuffed animals in our window.

Inside I’ve got my fingers crossed that Colonel Mustard in the dining room with a candlestick will be our silver lining tonight.





16 thoughts on “Silver Lining

  1. Thank you Karen! What a lovely surprise..I so enjoyed reading “Silver Lining”. I truly believe there is a silver lining in all this! Blessings..




    1. You know, of course, that I value your remarks. Through thick and thin, you and I have weathered more than we could count. This is yet another storm we could not have imagined. Stay well.


  2. Karen your latest essay was a perfect reminder of what we can and must do to fill the fearful moments we are going through with something to bring us a sense of peace, and a brief moment in time (not quite Stephen Hawking) to escape to another place filled with, if not happiness, oblivion (?) to the things transpiring around our world. For myself I’ve gone back to the concentration of jig saw puzzles, which were always stacked in the game closet at my grandmother’s and great aunt’s houses in Pennsylvania, along with a can of pick up sticks and maybe some homemade ginger cookies we could get into when we were kids. Unfortunately due to my husband Marv’s deteriorating eyesight these puzzles are solo adventures to me, and maybe that’s a good thing. Any of you who have accompanied a loved one or gone by yourself to radiation or chemo treatments have most often seen the jig saw puzzle on a large table, inviting any or all to fill in a few pieces while waiting. Now with reality closing in around us (my neighbor and good friend in the hospital for Covid 19)!and her husband stricken with the fact that he contracted it at a conference in DC and unknowingly brought it back to her in Phoenix, the rest of us sit and wait in isolation for the epidemic to subside, these little escape tactics are necessary and nothing to feel guilty about ( but we are humans and for the most humane of us, Guilty is our middle name). Thank heavens for Amazon, Netflix and the other myriad sites where we can escape for awhile, trying not to beating our loved ones to a pulp! 😂😂 😂
    And by the way how did Karen and I suddenly become “the elderly “?


    1. This is a remarkable response. When I stayed with my grandparents on their farm in southern Illinois, their TV only had one channel with limited programming. I passed the time working jig saw puzzles with my grandmother and doing paint-by-number art with my grandfather. You and I have those simpler times in common. Given the passage of time since our school years together, it’s stunning to re-connect. I send my best hopes to you, and please know how much I value your re-emergence here. As I type, I feel my elderly status in my joints. But you? No. Not possible.


  3. Another beautiful essay Karen. I look forward to reading all of your posts. They touch my heart. Stay well and please say hi to your family for me. A special hi to sweet Maria.


    1. We have sweet Maria because of you. If you go to the bottom of the page, type Fences and Gates into the white rectangle and press SEARCH to find older blog posts. I write about “our” rescue dog there, especially your big heart that saved her in the first place. Stay well.


  4. Oh my, such passion about yesterday and with a nod of what may well lie ahead, at least with our family. You continue to pull my heartstrings with your words, and manage to have done so for over four decades. I have read many good pieces in my life and times, but none better than yours.


  5. Karen, my dear friend from a seemingly, distant other life, especially now. You words always feel like what I mean to say. We seem to share memories though we weren’t together at the time. Please never stop sharing your slices of life, because we are all hungry for a bite.


  6. Thank you incredibly much for writing this. We had the best times together. Our dear dogs did, too. I appreciate your encouragement. I’ll picture you every time I write from now on.


  7. I love this. As scary as everything is these days, I look at my neighbors across the street who now are staying at home with their 9 month old instead of handing him off to the nanny so they can go to work. I think they have no idea how close they came to missing a wondrous time in their lives. I love the idea of you all now sitting around playing Clue, one of my favorite games. I have gone jogging several times with my son through the neighborhood, which we had never done before. I have taken miles long hikes with girlfriends I hd lost touch with. Sara Stone and I facetimes for two hours but, before this, I had not actually seen her for a decade. I helped another girlfriend, my “sister” from when I was 17 and lived with her in Paris, record a music video with guests from around the world, from Wuhan to South Africa, to Los Angeles. There is indeed a silver lining. Unexpected and bright. Thank you for writing this!


    1. I believe we’ve leaned that no one is THAT busy. We don’t need more stuff in order to complete our lives–those of us who are fortunate enough to still have our lives. Jogging beside his mother may well be the simple thing about you that your son remembers more than his winning ribbons. Together in our living room, night after night, the three of us sometimes dissolve in laughter over the tiniest exchange that we would have missed otherwise. Please give my best to Sara.


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