A According to my grandmother, we had an ancestor who arrived on the Mayflower. I don’t remember his name, but he supposedly was the pilgrim who brought the library. His love of books remained in the bloodline, but his wanderlust did not, and four hundred years later, our family is still in Massachusetts. The frontier went west but we did not go with it.
We rejected the geography of the frontier and its value of self-sufficiency.
My grandfather emerged from sporadic efforts at minor home improvement confessing that he had “committed carpentry on the house.” I learned the lesson and avoided the crime. Why waste my time, endanger my safety, and threaten my marriage when well-trained electricians, plumbers, and carpenters are nearby? Why worry about dinner when every conceivable meal option is five minutes away? Why care for my own illness when the doctor’s office is even open on Sundays?
That ended in March.
I didn’t go to the frontier. It came for me, and now I live in my own little house on the prairie.
An isolated, self-contained unit, my family spends its days together focusing on immediate needs: the next meal, a clogged sink, the best fabric for a home-sewn mask. We are each other’s resources and points of reference. We torment and console each other, and at the end of each day I say goodnight to my children with the promise that we will get through this, omitting the qualifier “I hope.”
To my surprise, after centuries of familial avoidance, the frontier life appeals to me. The satisfaction of fixing my own sink (though maybe it’s leaking a little). Making the best meals I can with what I have on hand, wasting nothing. Admiring my wife’s wonderful homemade masks.
Often it works—though sometimes it really, really doesn’t. Yet, we are all together, here on the frontier. We occupy our homestead, physically alongside our neighbors but functionally severed. You do, too.
I hope that we can hold on to each other. I hope that we continue to cook our meals, to fix our sinks, to whisper to our children. I hope we get through this.
Joseph Moldover is a writer and clinical psychologist. His debut novel, Every Moment After, was published in 2019. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife and their four children.
Image Credit: Patricia