My phone rang, 11:20am, Tuesday. A shiver ran down my spine when I saw that it was Lexi’s school. I love the people at WoodsEdge because of how well they take care of and train my daughter. These teachers and staff are excellent folks who are committed to educating the special needs population, even during a pandemic. They’re great folks, but I knew they weren’t calling just to say hello. My brain came up with a multiple choice list of what it might be:
A. Lexi is sick (this is very unusual — never pick A)
B. Lexi got into a “fight” (she can be um… expressive… but this probably wasn’t it)
C. Lexi was exposed to COVID 19 (always pick c)
D. (Always pick c)
No fever, no symptoms, but she was exposed to another student who tested positive and needed to be picked up from school ASAP. I wrapped up the meeting I was in and hit the road, my mind buzzing with the implications. A 14 day mandatory quarantine. Unclear answers on how this would affect the rest of the family. Would she show symptoms? Is the other kid ok? Should I cancel the rest of my in-person appointments? Should I change my ZOOM background? Why are Canada Geese so remarkably unkind, unlike their people?
Lexi has severe special needs. Our lives are altered by her presence in good and challenging ways. While she does limit me, she also grounds me. Yes, I have one hand tied behind my back, but my other hand is more dexterous. It’s humbling and even a bit humiliating to rely on other people, but it is good for the soul to acknowledge what everyone learns eventually: you can’t do life alone. There is no choice but to count on God and others.
By Tuesday afternoon, I had answers. First off, Lexi was fine — which is good — but would need to be monitored for symptoms over the next 5 days. Second, it would probably be best if I quarantined too, as I can’t really isolate from Lexi. Third, I work with a good team of people at Renovation who can reconfigure on a dime and make things good — better, probably — without me.
Wednesday rolled around. Day one of quarantine. All my meetings were Zoomtastic. Lexi was mostly cooperative, but her game was thrown off by being out of school. I couldn’t go anywhere, though I admit I did a quick run to the store early on because there were some essentials that we needed. Since then, I’ve been nowhere but in my car or outside, or in downtown Chicago.
Lemme tell you about Chicago by giving some backstory: by Saturday, my extroversion was desperate. Karen, my resourceful and saintly mother in law, came to the house and told me to leave. It was the kindest thing I’ve heard in a while. I drove west, hitting Laura’s Little Burger Joint, voted Michigan’s Best Burger, and ordered from outside. Then I drove west-er and found Lake Michigan. The sea was uncharacteristically calm, but the rain wouldn’t give up, so being outside wasn’t a good long term strategy.
I thought “what’s the most wasteful, ridiculous, and memorable way I could spend time to recharge, stay dry, be around people, and be home by 10pm?” And then I looked across the lake and it hit me (BAM):
I should drive all the way to Chicago for a slice of pizza.
And that’s what I did.
2 hours and 17 minutes later, I was there: hazards on, curbside in front of Lou Malnati’s on Wells. I called ahead. In a moment of clarity, I ordered an extra large deep dish, double pepperoni (there never really can be enough). After all, who would drive that far for one piece of pizza? My plan was perfect: they’d bring it out and I’d drive off somewhere safe to consume my treasure, like a half-tamed squirrel carrying a freshly dispensed peanut.
The pizza was delicious and was my excuse for making the trip. But the setting was what I truly needed to be recharged, recalibrated, and social without the risk.
Being in a town I love, driving through city streets that are both hustle and bustle… it was a nature walk of a different kind. The squeaky wheeled L above my head sang like birds as the howl of the diesel CTA buses croaked. People darted and flowed like fields of masked barley waving in the wind. A biker almost ran into me, like so many annoying mosquitoes. Is that a… a street band performing on 5 gallon buckets? Yes, like the site of a deer, leaping in majestic glory.
Bumper to bumper on Dearborn, LaSalle, Randolph, Michigan Ave, Upper and Lower Wacker, and that beautiful, beautiful Lake Michigan, now seen from the other side. The energy and urban flow brings me life. The concrete jungle. The humanity. The awkward site of the CloudGate, surrounded by no one.
I came home with 80% of a deep dish pepperoni. Hours later, I would eat another 20% for breakfast. It was an extravagant joy that came about because of a crisis. I was full of pizza and recharged in all ways.
In these strange days when Jesus is still Lord, I can say that a pandemic offers little slices of joy — yes, like giant hunks/slices of dish pizza — that makes for a great day after all. By the way, as of this writing, Lexi is symptom-free and every slice of joy has been consumed and I am rather happy about both.
Lexi beckons. She wants pizza, and I have no backup plan. I hope all is well with you.