Michelle Martin

‘Please,’ ‘Thank you’

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Over and over again, Pope Francis has talked about the importance of the words “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry” in family life.

They have perhaps never been as important as they are now, with families sheltering in place together, sharing space along with hot water and internet bandwidth for weeks on end.

In the beginning, it was an adventure of sorts, an intense and hurried effort to get the college kids home, to bring in the groceries to feed five people three meals a day, to make sure we had what we needed for all of us to work and study from home.

The dining room table became our office, and for the first couple of hours at least, it was even neat and organized.

Now it is the landing site for three laptops, a monitor, maybe a half-dozen computer and phone charging cords, a stack of loose leaf paper, Teresa’s school binder, pens and markers in a cup and scattered loose, a couple of fabric masks, a hair tie and hairbrush, at least two newspapers, books, two Easter baskets, an unplugged lamp and a custard cup with a pingpong ball in it.

No, I don’t know why there’s a custard cup with a pingpong ball. I didn’t know we had any pingpong balls.

A month in, with no one going back to school this academic year, what was a crisis response has become more of a slog, with more of the everyday friction that is going to exist with people living in close quarters.

Even with no sports to watch, we’ve learned to negotiate over who gets to watch their shows on the big TV and who gets to plug their phone in. We’ve crowded around the kitchen table for dinner, retreated to empty rooms for quiet time and we wash dishes maybe five times a day.

We’ve had to apologize when we forget to buy what someone has asked for, either on the weekly grocery trip or online, and when we’ve stepped on the dog’s tail.

The dog, at least, is always happy to go for a (masked, socially distanced) walk around the neighborhood.

So, to my husband: Thank you for taking charge of making sure there’s dinner every evening.

To my kids: Thank you for maintaining a positive attitude during this, almost all of the time. Thank you for playing games and doing puzzles with us.

To my kids: I’m sorry about the things you’re missing out on. The big ones (college graduation) and the smaller ones (playing tag at recess).

To my husband: I’m sorry this has fallen so heavily on your shoulders. And I’m sorry you haven’t been able to see your mom, who is in a nursing home.

To my husband: Please try to rest.



  • family life
  • coronavirus