On his college search 20 years ago, my son Noah emerged from the subway at Union Square, Manhattan and lit up with joy. It was as if growing up in Whitefield and Newcastle was merely the first chapter in his book of memories. He had skipped over two generations to find a new home in the Big Apple (his middle name is Apple). It was in the 1930s when my parents left New York City during the Great Depression to live in rural New Hampshire. They had a victory garden then and Noah grew up in Whitefield amongst sheep and chickens during the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s.
But after graduating from Lincoln Academy, Noah appeared ready to face the challenges of urban college life and walk-through bedroom apartments. Eventually, he married a college mate, Mya, had a son, Sal, and moved to a one-bedroom apartment on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn. On the way, he suffered the skurge of bedbugs, 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and now being at ground zero for COVID-19.
As Mainers, we have become accustomed to living in isolation, ice storms and home cooking. The norm in New York City is commuting by public transportation, eating out and feasting on live entertainment.
In Brooklyn, Noah created his own school and resource center, Brooklyn Apple Academy. His young primary students learn through activities including cooking, carpentry and weekly trips to museums, artisans and public events. Noah and Sal have recently found the Brooklyn Nets and have attended games.
“The stadium is really close. The tickets are relatively cheap,” he said.
Noah is part of a street band in which he plays the bass drum.
All of that came to a screeching stop with the stay-at-home mandate for COVID 19.
So how have Noah, Sal and Mya adapted?
Brooklyn Apple Academy was forced to close along with the loss of family income. Noah struggles to keep the teachers, parents and kids on board. He structured an online classroom open to anyone who wanted to teach a course. Sal, 7, taught a course in “card tossing” last week.
Noah has had the stress of letting teachers go, and paying the rent on the school space as well as his apartment.
“I am taking the bike to the bank,” he said. He will be filling out papers for a small business loan. His summer classes including a cooking camp for children are likely to be canceled.
For Mya, various group activities have been canceled. For Sal, school and play groups are on hold.
“My only purchase has been a Nintendo,” said Noah from home. Sal has been rooted to his I-pad but kept away from violent computer games. Now he and Noah have stepped back to an era when Pong and Super Mario Bros. were popular.
“They are actually a lot of fun,” he said.
Sal has taken an interest in basketball and there is a hoop in the backyard.
“We recently raised the basket higher,” Noah reported.
A few nights ago they took the car for take-out pizza just to break the monotony of home cooking.
“Mya is excited about Omaha Steaks coming in the mail,” he added.
Noah is looking forward to the annual summer visit to Maine, but with the possibility of fewer visits to high school friends and play groups for Sal. In Maine the family may have to be isolated for 14 days, healthy or not, so as to keep the parents safe.
In spite of the challenges, the family has stayed together. An extended family “Zoom” session took place on Sunday.