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Letters from the Homefront: ‘Isolation or Desolation?’

The following “Letters from the Homefront” account is part of our new initiative, Collecting in Quarantine. Inspired by the poignant letters in the Maryland Historical Society collection documenting past adversities from the Spanish flu of 1918, to the Annapolis yellow fever epidemics of 1793 and 1800, MdHS is calling on Marylanders to send their personal stories of how the pandemic is impacting their lives.

Group portrait. Unidentified man and young boys getting their haircut in barber shop
Salons and barber shops are just now being reopened but back when our contributor wrote in May, a home haircut was the best option. Group portrait. Unidentified man and young boys getting their haircut in barber shop, photograph by Paul S. Henderson, circa 1949, HEN.00.B2-266. Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, Baltimore City Life Museum Collection, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Maryland Historical Society.

May 27, 2020 – On this day, Jesse Gardner from Towson writes:

Is Isolation the right word to describe being confined to your home with your spouse 24/7 for the foreseeable future?

Or Desolation?

My wife lives in a world of spoken words and I find shelter in the written word. We share an office and it works. Well, most of the time. Let’s be honest. Dueling conference calls, zoom meetings, and webcasts escalate into bedlam. I occasionally go down to the sunroom for a “change of scenery.” The separation doesn’t last long. I hear her office chair squeak, then footsteps in the hallway and soon she is headed downstairs. I feel like I am being stalked.

“Whatcha doing?” Here come the words again. I love my wife dearly, but I am really missing our dog that passed away three years ago. He knew “silence is golden.”

We are all living a giant social experiment as we try to dodge CV-19. My wife works part-time and pre-pandemic I worked from home on Tuesdays and Thursday. When we occasionally overlapped at home it was a special day. Lunch together. An afternoon walk. A time to re-connect rather than constant connection.

We have not yet found a new rhythm to life and we adapt as necessary. Like when I needed a haircut. My wife volunteered and I recoiled. We tried it once in college and she ran out of the room crying. I didn’t trust myself to sit still while she wielded a sharp pair of scissors around my ears.

Then I had an idea.

Like many people, we are sentimental about the effects left behind when a loved one passes away. We still had the dog’s old clippers. I decided to clean them up with one of the worth its weight in gold disinfectant wipes and presented them to my wife.

“Are you serious?” She gave me a quizzical look.

I shrugged. “No one is going to see me for a month anyways.”

She watched a video about giving haircuts and joked that she should wear a black leather bodysuit like the stylist in the film. We laughed for the first time in days. She went to work on my head. When she finished, I had to admit it looked pretty good. We sent a picture to our adult kids and their responses were true to who they are. Our accountant and PhD candidate son replied, “Be careful!” Our social media analyst daughter? “OMG 😂”

We created a bright memory in a dark and dangerous time.

My wife read the first draft of this essay and offered the following commentary:

“After 33 years of marriage, preceded by 8 years of dating, I am finally learning that my husband’s love language isn’t black leather bodysuits. It is silence. Maybe it’s time for a new wardrobe!”

Please note: The views, information, and opinions expressed and shared on the underbelly through the Collecting in Quarantine project do not necessarily represent those of the Maryland Historical Society. Our staff does not verify for accuracy the information contained within these submissions. We also do not edit the content beyond minor modifications for formatting or to remove personally identifying information, if applicable. Just like the historic letters in our collection, each letter presents the writer’s own perspective. The primary purpose of this series, with the permission of contributors, is to share and collect the experiences of Marylanders living through the COVID-19 crisis at this moment in time.

To learn more about the Collecting in Quarantine project and how to share a story of your own, click here.