Coping with COVID-19: ‘Cocooning’ in Our Own Chateau

by on March 16, 2020 · 0 comments

in Health, San Diego

By Richard Riehl

Two days before the pandemic was declared, we received a warning from the executive director of our 55+ senior community. The Château’s salad bar would be closed during meals. Seating in the dining hall would be limited. Two days later we found the second notice, a critical update after the pandemic was declared, taped to our front door.

The dining room has now been closed, and will remain so for at least 30 days. We may order our breakfast, lunch and dinner by telephone. Meals, packed in disposable boxes, will be carried to our front doors. Servers will not be permitted to enter our units or come within six feet of us upon delivery. It is “highly recommended” that we “limit outside guests or other visitors.” We are urged to “minimize all contact with non-residents.”

Karen and I are strongly supportive of these measures, impressed by the chateau’s management from the time our executive director announced his plan at last month’s HOA Board Meeting. We have friends and relatives within an hour’s drive of one of the nation’s coronavirus epicenters, a rest home in Washington state. We are both of an age to worry about the virus, Karen even more so because of her asthma.

You might say we have been quarantined, but we choose to call it cocooned. Quarantined is such an ugly word, implying isolation as punishment. But when I found this definition of cocooning, a “retreat from the stressful conditions of public life into the cozy private world of the family,” that seemed a better fit for this place, which has become our family.

Karen, my eternal optimist and history lover was reminded of her parents experience during the depression. Here’s what she wrote in a letter to our Chateau friends, who’ve become our family.

My mother told me often about that grim day, Monday, October 29, 1929, when the stock market crashed.

“Your father threw open the front door, grabbed me around the waist, kissed my lips hard, gave me a wink, and said, “Pearl, we’ve lost everything but five dollars. Let’s go to the movies and out to dinner.”

Mother was stunned. She said, “But Walter, then we won’t have anything!”

Daddy said, “We’ll have each other, and we’ll figure things out. Come on! Let’s go… I’m hungry for some popcorn!”

Four hours later, Mother and Daddy sat down at the kitchen table (my family’s command center for heavy talks) with paper and pencils, and worked on numbers and ideas to keep them alive. Their list follows:

Shoulders back
Head up

Sense of humor
Walks in the fresh air
Inner strength


Helping others
Stone Soup

Yes, my mother really made Stone Soup and she was proud of her recipe: Find small “just right” stone in yard, drop small stone into pot, heat water in pot, gather anything edible you can find in garden or lawn, and toss into pot. Add salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you may have. (A small slice of garlic adds a wonderful taste). And, of course, if you are lucky enough to have leftovers in the ice box, add them to pot. Simmer for 4 minutes. Dress dinner table with cloth, candles and tree greens.  Dress self in bright, happy clothes and a smile, and call family to dinner.

Mother also served bowls of stone soup during World War II. By then I was old enough to help gather the ingredients and take my turn to proudly find “just the right stone” for the soup.

Stay well and live.

Fortunately, Karen and I are both writers. While we remain cocooned here we will fill our days with writing, taking walks in the fresh air, and singing together. As movie buffs we will stay entertained with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video streaming films. I guess you could say that’s our own stone soup.

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