My wife and I watch more movies at home than we did before the pandemic began. I like watching movies on the couch together. We saw a movie the other evening about the life of singer Ray Charles. I was impressed with how his mom raised him to be so independent in spite of his blindness. My mom raised me to be independent too, even though I wasn’t blind. She told me what a good feeling it would be someday to earn my own money and buy my own things. I was so eager to experience this good feeling that I started doing yard work and shoveling snow when I was in second grade.
My main customers were two elderly neighbors who were sisters. The younger sister gave me the most business and the most advice. She said, “Save your money for a rainy day.” I was confused, since it didn’t seem like you would need more money on a rainy day than on a sunny one. My mom explained that our neighbor meant not to spend my money on frivolous things. After hearing her definition, I concluded that everything I wanted was frivolous, starting with the popsicles and strawberry shortcake bars available on the ice cream truck.
I know a lot of young people are moving back home and living with their parents because of the coronavirus. I am glad there was no pandemic crisis after I left home because I would have had a hard time living with either of my parents. I was too determined to have my own life and didn’t realize that depending on people—including your parents—didn’t have to prevent you from doing that. It took me a while to learn to strike a balance between relying on myself and relying on others.
I am still tinkering with the balance after decades of marriage. The balance has changed during this pandemic period. My wife and I have been taking more walks and sharing more meals together since she started working remotely. It will be an adjustment for both of us when she goes back to her regular work schedule—the way it used to be when her maternity leave would come to an end. Only now there is no actual baby to care for—just the part of ourselves that might want to be babied.
I don’t think wanting to be babied is a problem in a relationship, providing you’re also willing to baby your partner. The problems occur when one person starts acting like a mean baby when his needs aren’t met. I don’t think there actually are mean babies, but there definitely are mean people. A supervisor in grad school once observed that the meanest people in the world often tend to be the neediest. From my experience, what leads to anger more than being needy is pretending not to be needy. At some level, we are all needy—or there wouldn’t be so many popular songs with the word baby in the lyrics. In one of James Brown’s song, he sings baby, don’t leave me, even though actual babies don’t leave people because they are in such a dependent position.
Lately, I have been dancing to James Brown’s music before leaving my office at the end of the day. People say that it’s not a good idea to get in the habit of drinking alone, but I think it’s okay to dance alone. The truth is I never feel alone when I’m dancing. I feel connected to all the people who have ever danced to the same music before me. Sometimes I’ll even put in one of my sister’s old cassette tapes like Soul II Soul and feel connected to her. I’m sure she never imagined I would be dancing to one of her old cassette tapes 24 years after her death; needless to say, I never imagined it either.
I hope the holiday season will include some dancing for you too, my dear readers, along with whatever else will make it meaningful under these pandemic circumstances. This blog and your responses to it have helped make the past eight months more meaningful to me. I will be taking a writing break for the next few weeks—and give you a reading break—and we’ll see if I have more to say in the year ahead. I’m hoping I do, because I know I’ll miss you guys when this blog journey comes to an end.