The New Normal The COVID-19 Chronicles: A Reintroduction to Home, Family and Neighbors

Sock puppets | Provided photo


This is the one of a series of first-person accounts of how COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders around Monterey Bay are affecting us all. If you would like to share your thoughts about living under the sheltering sky send your essay to us at

By Koly McBride

So now we’re coming into week two of shelter in place. And it’s hard. It’s hard being told that you have to stay in socially and that you cannot communicate face-to-face except online and you cannot go to the movies and you cannot go to the local theater and you are encouraged to quickly go to the grocery store or order to-go food if needed.

Most of us have students that are at home and the diligent ones are actually committed to doing their lessons online. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to work from home and some of us have been laid off until further notice. My business has lost a substantial amount of revenue with no end in sight.

It’s an unknown time. It’s a scary time. It’s a time which no one in our lives has ever walked through before. But I woke up today with a little more positivity and gratitude and wanted to share the wonderful things about the new normal, my new normal.

For example, in my neighborhood there are now three or four houses on my street that have started opening their garages and neighbors are playing their instruments and singing. Around the corner a family has hooked up a sound system in their back yard and I can hear two or three guitars playing while a young man with a beautiful voice sings love songs and ballads in Spanish. There is laughter, there is joy, and I found myself opening my bedroom window a little wider so I could hear better.

I have reconnected with several of my friends all over the U.S. because now we actually have time to catch up. We all have time for idle Facetime chats, much like we used to do on the landline before the internet. We tell each other which recipes we are trying, or what the family is doing.

My back yard neighbor and I are talking over our back fence — I have to stand on a milk crate to see over because her yard is 5 feet lower than mine. I leave eggs from my chickens for her on her front porch and she leaves fresh herbs from her garden on mine.

Hens | Provided photo

I have spent more time with my teenagers in the past two weeks then I have in the past year. They are both in college and have moved to continuing their courses online, but I feel so much more connected because I actually get to see them and ask them about what they’re doing, how their grades are. I’m getting to know them as adults as we exist at home together 24 hours a day.

I am cooking and I am baking more than I have in a very long time. We are spending time as a family eating around a dinner table. We are lucky to have a big house … we do have a house full but somehow we manage to not be on top of each other.

Since I have to work from home, I’m able to keep an eye on my backyard chickens and I can tell you now without a doubt which one are still laying and which ones are freeloading. Before it was just kind of a guessing game.

I’ve also created a semi-weekly livestream show from our theatre group’s Facebook page. We make up silly skits and do improv and talk about theater and all of my children have participated in creating that with me.

Sock puppets | Provided photo

This is giving me time to plant an actual garden, using up the seeds that have been sitting in my planting drawer for a while. And I honestly don’t think it really matters if they grow. The point is, they’re in the ground and my hands had the time to put them there.

It’s interesting to me. My fiance Lloyd and I used to tell each other that we regretted not having more time to spend in our house working on our silly little Wackadoo Farm. Now it seems we have oodles of time and we are slowly tackling those little “putter” projects. This is interesting to me mostly because it had to be a state official who gave us permission to take a break from our lives and do what mattered. A virus set us free, so to speak.

Early reports indicate the earth itself is benefiting from our decrease in moving about in the world. Less emissions, fewer footprints.

And out in the world, people are scarce but nearly everyone you see acknowledges each other. Sincere smiles and head nods to strangers have returned. It’s like we all are acknowledging the fact we are in this together, that the entire bulk of humanity has become one.

And we have.

There are conflicting reports as to how long the sheltering place is going to last and there are conflicting reports in my own household how long the harmony will last.

But right here, right now, today is perfect and I know this moment can’t last but I’m going to enjoy it while it’s here.

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Koly McBride

About Koly McBride

Koly McBride is the co-founder and co-producing partner at The Paper Wing Theatre Company in Monterey.