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Homeward Bound

I realized after the second brandy on our first night in PA that we had not visited without children in over 22 years. Over the next 3 days we slept late, walked to the farm each morning for homemade breakfast, then went on a daily excursion before returning to a delicious meal and evening spent around the table playing cards and reminiscing. We hiked through hunting lairs in the woods, traversed Blue Marsh in kayaks, searched antique cemeteries for old relations and spent an afternoon with Barb's bridge group that doesn't play bridge (right now). Instead of bridge, these women meet regularly to talk current events, trade advice, enjoy laughs and lunch and a dip in the pool. They are smart, talented, opinionated, and a refreshing oasis in an area that is laden with single-minded folks who boldly wear their opposing political persuasions on signs and banners painting the local landscape. It was fitting that we gathered on the 100th anniversary of the suffrage movement. It was also satisfying to learn that there are supporters in PA on both sides of the battle this fall, and encouraging that they are not afraid to be vocal about their positions on the issues and those who make policy.

Our 3 days passed quickly, and Friday morning we said goodbye to the rolling hills dotted with farms to head to New Jersey to see Abby. While Hans and I were enjoying our time together, Abby was home saying goodbye to friends, packing up her belongings and driving herself from home to New Jersey. It's not how we planned to send her off to college, but with 2 drop-offs in 2 different states in the same week, we had to punt. When she was ready to leave Carlisle, Max called us on FaceTime so we could see her off as she waved and drove off down the driveway. There were no tears, only excitement and perhaps a little anxiety about how to avoid the GW on the way through New York City.

Because of concerns about COVID, we opted to allow Abby to live in an apartment with a girl from the musical theater program instead of living on campus. She's about a 10 minute drive from school, in a 2-bedroom apartment much nicer than any apartment I have ever lived in. They have separate bathrooms, covered parking, laundry in their unit, and landscaped grounds with health club, pools, BBQ areas and paved paths for walks or jogs. Abby designed a color scheme and "vibe" for each room, including her walk-in closet that is larger than a room I rented in Roslindale one summer after college. We sunk some money into furniture and decor, and if she's careful with her grocery bills, we may still come out under budget for what we would have spent for her to live on campus. Those sofas will look great in my living room some day.

Abby moves in

Hans saw the apartment and met Abby's roommate and her family at the beginning of August when they dropped off some luggage. This was my first visit. Katie is absolutely beautiful and supremely talented—an accomplished dancer who sheepishly admitted that she is currently Miss Hanover PA (and may be for another year if they can't hold another pageant!). Her parents are warm and welcoming, and it was obvious that they adopted Abby as one of their own this week while we were absent. They kept busy shopping, decorating, making Tik Tok videos, and doing photo shoots of the girls in matching dresses while out on the town in Princeton. I'm so thankful they helped ease the transition for Abby and included her in their fun.

When we arrived, Abby's new room looked just like her room at home—every inch of the floor covered with clothing. We arrived just in time to help. Our first stop was to pick up some storage items to get her clothes and accessories organized in her super-sized closet. It didn't take long, though, to put the room together as best we could. Several items she ordered hadn't arrived yet, so she'll have to add those pieces as they come. We hung her groovy tapestry, organized bedding, and propped up her lava lamps on cardboard boxes that will be replaced by her plastic orange cube end tables soon. By the time we finished, it was a giant step back to the 1970s when you entered

The rest of the apartment is fairly sparse for now while the girls await deliveries from Wayfair and Amazon with sofas and tables to complete the decor. All bets seem to be off with Amazon and every other delivery company these days—no one manages to pull off 2-day delivery and most deliveries are weeks out from the dates posted on the website. But for now the pantry is stocked, the wifi works, and there are 2 folding chairs in the living room saving spaces for the couches when they do arrive. Katie's dog, Penny, likes the extra room, and pads around after us on the carpet looking for some attention while we finish unpacking.

With our work done, the six of us enjoyed dinner under a tent at a small Italian restaurant just off Main Street in downtown Princeton. We told stories and laughed like we'd known each other for years, not just a little over 4 hours. Hans was going to drive home, so he didn't enjoy the wine, but I gladly drank his share before the waiter could remove my glass. We walked about town for a bit after the meal, but since it was getting close to 8pm and we had a 4+ hour ride to MA, we went back to the apartment for one last time to say goodbye.

My family will gladly tell you that I don't transition well. The tears can start, randomly, weeks before an event, and most images of me on those special days are shrouded by sunglasses. I know that Abby is more than ready for this move, and as we chat in the car about majors and auditions and extracurriculars and job opportunities, I feel some comfort knowing that she is embracing this new adventure with her whole being. That didn't make it any easier to leave, though, and it was silent in our car for the first hour of the ride home as we both tried to imagine day after day without Abby to add her spark and energy to our daily grind.

Not-quite-empty nest

We are not empty nesters yet, though, as Max is stuck working at home until his company calls employees to the office in Chicago. He held down the fort for us while we were away, and he accepted the charge to take care of business for the next 2 weeks while we quarantine at home per Massachusetts health regulations. He joked that it's back to being just the 3 of us at home for the first time in 19 years. In my opinion, things haven't changed all that much, except that there are no diapers this time around—at least for Max!

Since we rolled into the driveway just shy of 1am, we didn't feel the full impact of having to quarantine when we first arrived. Saturday morning, though, our limitations began to sink in. I signed up for Instacart for the first time since the pandemic began to order groceries since I had other errands planned for Max. Instacart was easy to set up, and they were offering a promotion with free delivery for 2 weeks, so I opened the app and started to shop. It must get easier to shop online after you've done it a few times and can save a list. The first time, though, is grueling. The lists are not set up intuitively so I found myself back tracking and adding a number of items after I had placed the order. I didn't set up substitutes for all items, so instead of Mr. Clean, Joe Shopper substituted yet another gallon of bleach to add to the 6 we already have around the house.. He substituted DD coffee for Starbucks. There were unexpected surprises, too—we got frozen broccoli and cauliflower instead of fresh, orange creme yogurt instead of key lime, and the store was out of paper towels (understood) and worcestershire sauce (is there a shortage????). We got packaged deli meat, including 2 kinds of turkey instead of turkey and ham, and Joe Shopper picked the largest apples possible so there were just a 4 count weighing in at 2 pounds. There were other odd choices and substitutions, too, and I promptly cancelled the subscription. I'll send Max next time knowing he will call if he can't get what I want....Joe Shopper and I don't see eye to eye.

I sent Max to the farm to pick up our veggie share, then to the dump to empty the van that Hans packed for him. By mid-afternoon we were all frustrated and unsure how we were going to make it through the next 14 days. COVID tests are $160 each and, with little income at the moment, $320 in testing seems steep. Hans was grumpy all day, and it wasn't until a friend stopped by late afternoon that things started to look up. She told us about the free testing program for MA residents and sent a link to the location map on I immediately signed us up for appointments on Sunday and we all slept a little sounder last night.

COVID Testing

Hans had an 8am appointment in Marlborough for his test, so he left the house at 7am. He was back by 8:15am, swabbed and smiling. He arrived a bit early at the site, but they didn't have him on the appointment list anyway since it takes 24 hours for appointments to register. The attendant gave him a consent form and motioned him into the auto line.

(ED-try to imagine Hans telling this story with full treble engaged...there's no way to capture it so I won't try!) The attendant didn't provide a pen with the form, so Hans rummaged through the car and found a dull pencil with a shred of carbon remaining. As he was bearing down to fill out the form, he noticed that someone in line was honking their horn aggressively. He looked around but couldn't immediately tell what car it was, so he ignored the blasts and finished up his form. A few seconds later a swarm of medical personnel came running out of the building, dressed in full PPE from tip to toe, heading straight for his car. They gathered around the car to make sure he was OK—unbeknownst to Hans, he had been pressing down on his horn while trying to print firmly and had no idea he had set the staff into a frenzy. Ooops.

When my niece got a COVID test a few weeks ago, she described it as someone scratching your brain with a Q-tip. In Marlborough, they performed a lower nasal swab, just 5 circles in each nostril instead of a deep sinus tissue attack. Results are due back in 48-72 hours, so we are waiting patiently, G&Ts in hand, until we can safely share one with friends later this week. Josh had his first COVID test on Friday after a couple of players on the baseball team tested positive, but that's a breaking news story for the next post.

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