Togetherness: a cure worse than the disease

Too much togetherness: today’s social distancing, stay-home rules and self-quarantine are taking a toll. Although my physical state may survive, I wonder if my metal stability will. The term “togetherness” was coined in the 1950s — after the boys from World War II came home. It was the consummation wives had so devoutly wished. Children were reunited with their fathers — or with those pioneer women who also served in the WACs, WAVES , WAAF and the other military auxiliaries. A popular song of the day told it all:

When the boys come home
We’ll all be as merry
As merry as may,
When the boys come home.
Togetherness begand when the boys come home. Ben and Alice Green, 1944
Togetherness began when the boys returned from the wars
Social observers called it togetherness. (for humorous eyewitness accounts of that era, please check out my  biographies on the  Books page). At last, after long separation from loved ones, we could again have some family time, Then came the 60s, and all that goodwill and bonhomie began to cloy. We mocked "togetherness" as a phony answer to the fragmentation of family in the new hustle of post-war life. Sick comedy was born, featuring Shelley Berman, Dick Gregory, Lenny Bruce and the button-down mind of Bob Newhart. Bob even made a recent comeback as Professor Proton, one of Sheldon’s childhood heroes, in The Big Bang Theory TV series.

Then pandemic struck

Now we have the stay-home order, presently the only effective means of containing the spread of the wildly contagious coronavirus. All kidding aside, folks, this is an urgent measure, which we should all observe as long as it is necessary. For you, for me, for our families, friends neighbors and our whole way of life, this is deadly serious business.

We must remain vigilant, however, against a cure worse than the disease. After weeks of family time some wives are ready to employ their carving knives against their husbands, who in turn are plotting to feed them their own week-old lasagna as a midnight snack. Children threaten to commit bloody murder against their siblings — or their parents against them. Before you know it, due to togetherness, the cure will be worse than the disease it is meant to remedy.

Signs of stress

Symptoms of the problem are popping up everywhere   On our Next Door neighborhood channel, neighbor Mark Sides has chronicled the ill effects the lock-down is having on him, to wit:

  • I used to spin that toilet paper like I was on Wheel of Fortune. Now I turn it like I’m cracking a safe.
  • I need to practice social distancing from the refrigerator.
  • Still haven’t decided where to go for Easter– The Living Room or The Bedroom.
  • PSA: every few days try your genes on just to make sure they fit. Pajamas will have you believe all is well in the kingdom.
  • Home schooling is going well: two students suspended for fighting and one teacher fired for drinking on the job.
  • I don’t think anyone expected that when we change the clocks we go from Standard Time to The Twilight Zone.
  • This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came into my house told my dog… we laughed a lot.
  • So, after this quarantine… Will the producers of My 600 Pound Life just find me or do I find them?

Mark penned a lot more great stuff in his post, but I hesitate to expose it too widely. I might ruin his chances of launching a new career (which he and the rest of us will doubtless need) in standup comedy after this mess is all over. Furthermore, we’ve got to head off, not just spread of the the Covid 19 virus, but the aftermath of this compulsory confinement. Don’t you just hate it when the police and fire department and then the forensic team — those dedicated first responders in moon suits, N95 masks and protective gloves — descend on your house? And then the the lawyers, the courtrooms, the prison visits and all that bother. Must we put ourselves through this — really?

Tip: make homemade hand sanitizer…

Our dear friend Eleanor has developed a constructive way to pass her extra time at home, while advancing social distancing form germs. And none too soon: the price of hand sanitizer has  gone through the roof. Most Instacart Shoppers won’t even bother to search for it on the empty shelves. Here’s her solution, literally:

The recipe for hand sanitizer is 4 parts alcohol to 1 part aloe (I used Banana Boat aloe – green and goopy). Alcohol should be at least 70%. I used 91% because I found it. If running low on wipes around the house, put some on a piece of clean rag to save any commercial wipes for being out of the house. I found the aloe to be real goopy so I combined it in a glass with the alcohol. Easier to funnel all of it in container then. I would rather give out a recipe for banana bread than sanitizer, but that is not the world now.

No trademark on recipe-pass it on.

Stay safe.

If your are careful to use Banana Boat brand, and make no other substitutions in the recipe, you will stay safe, especially if your are serving banana bread at dinner.

…or work a jigsaw puzzle

Frankly, in such high-tension togetherness situations, our family has always favored one peaceful pastime. Whenever we visit our daughter Lisa’s family in Houston during those crazy, lazy days of summer or the compressed and stressful winter holidays, she breaks out a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Puzzling like this, we can while away long evenings and many idle hours in peaceful harmony. Last year at Christmas, she gave me a welcome present — a double-sided jigsaw puzzle. As an architect, I loved the photo of Fallingwater, the iconic Pennsylvania house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. True, it was double the fun, but it doubled the trouble. At one point, I got stumped, and you’ll quickly understand why when you see this:

There were not enough visual clues to finish one side of the puzzle. Click on the video link above to see how I solved the problem.

A virtual tour of Fallingwater

Fans of architecture, and others, will enjoy this remarkable virtual tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater by the talented Cristobal Vila:

Oh, and our neighbor Mark Sides had one final comment about social distancing: “Better six feet apart than six feet under.”

Until next time, good words to you.

Stay safe,  

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