By Paula Henriquez

HAVANA TIMES – We’ve been away from our workplaces and schools for some time now. Streets aren’t as noisy as they were, buses making their long intermunicipal journeys are missed. I even miss the everyday crowd, coming and going.

I had never watched TV as much as I have now. I didn’t know what was on every channel and when, but I think I can recite the program off by heart, my daughter too. We have read the entire first-grade textbook, the storybooks she’s been given as presents, the ones we’ve bought and the ones I have kept since I was a child. There isn’t an empty page in her colouring books and blobs of plasticine cry out for help because they have already been molded into every possible shape.

I have been reminded of my primary school days, going over numbers, the simplest 1st grade calculations, and I can also say that I enjoyed writing in the handwriting book again to show my 7-year-old girl how to keep within the lines.

My very limited time after work, as a working mother, didn’t allow me to do a lot of extra work around the house. Now, cleaning, washing dishes, cooking are not only chores, but also ways to pass hours by when the days get unbearably long and boring. Yes, because sometimes boredom comes knocking even when you take great pains to avoid it.

Anxiety makes my husband pace about the room. He isn’t able to concentrate on anything and it makes us laugh a lot. We have spoken about the most serious topics, as well as the most ridiculous. We dare each other to see who has to do schoolwork with our daughter, and sometimes we teach her together.

We have played every imaginable game under the sun with the girl and, believe me… we are quite imaginative. She has inherited both of our imaginations, so when we run out of ideas, she comes across one. The cat doesn’t want to see us anymore. He runs off every time we want to pet him, the poor cat has already seen himself dressed up in any old thing, even with pink ribbons and sleeping in the doll’s bed.

If social distancing doesn’t end soon, you’ll find us living in castles and we’ll be the king, queen and princess, riding white steeds or flying on dragons. Who knows?

I have also learned to be a lot more patient, nowadays. I have learned that my husband and I will grow old together because this really has been a true test of whether we can live together. I have learned that life is fragile, just like my parents are, who I have thought about so much and continue to think about every time I have to go outside to find something.

I have learned to think, or better yet, we have learned to think as a family, and if we did it before, we weren’t as aware as we are now. We have realized just how much we can do for others, even more than before, because we have needed others and we have been there for everyone else.

I have learned to be less critical and to be more understanding. During this time, and as I’ve already told my friends and acquaintances, I haven’t wanted to be anywhere else that wasn’t my country, my neighborhood, my home. There’s nothing safer in stormy weather than the place you know and love like life itself (even if it’s hard to admit for different reasons).

This virus has isolated us, but it has also taught us lots of things. It has shown us who our true friends are, the ones who might not call you every day, but carry you in their hearts and wish you the best. I have learned to be grateful for my health, my home and being alive. I have also prayed for the sick, so that they get better and go home to their families. My daughter and I clap every night for doctors all over the world, and especially in Cuba.

We’ll get out of this together. We’ll get out of this with flying colors, never forgetting this time and the lessons that Life has taught us. As a phrase I’ve read on social media says, which seems to really hit the nail on the head: “if we aren’t better people at the end of this pandemic, we won’t have learned anything.”


Paula Henriquez

Paula Henriquez: Since childhood I have been told I should be careful what I say in public. "Think before you speak, especially in front of others," my mother would say, and it was more of a plea than a scolding. Even today I hear her and I obey her, just that I do not speak, I write. Letters and words are my escape, my exit and daily catharsis, which printed on paper, revive me. And this picture is my refuge.

2 thoughts on “My Social Distancing Lessons

  • Moses, your reflect Dr. Martin Luther King:

    “I have a dream!”

  • This well-written article could have been written from most places in the world today so widespread is the impact of this pandemic. What’s curious about the fact that is is written by a Cuban wife and mother who lives in Castro’s Cuba is the common experiences all of share in dealing with this virus. If we have this much in common despite our very different systems of government and extreme differences in political rights and freedoms, it makes even less since for the Castro dictatorship to continue their ridiculous control over the Cuban people. For all the drama the totalitarian regime imposes upon the Cuban people, it is clear that in the end, when trouble comes, it is family and what’s going on in the home that sustains us. The Castros should simply walk away and allow Cuba to be free. Whatever good that Fidel had in mind for Cuba in 1959, has not and will not come to pass. The regime should just go away.

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