temp check.

May 27, 2020
magenta roses on a stoop in brooklyn | reading my tea leaves

It’s been two months since my first temperature check. How are you feeling?

I needed a reset this week. Monday was a holiday and on Tuesday I took the day to celebrate Faye’s birthday. Today, I needed to start with a long walk to quite literally smell the roses. We left the house at 7:30, which is to say the hour most mornings when things start to go haywire. Doesn’t leave much time for serenity, does it?

The very worst weeks of the pandemic feel like they’re behind us, but in the first hour that I worked on this, I heard eight ambulances scream through the open window. There’s still a general sense of emergency, and a second and simultaneous pandemic of frayed nerves and exhaustion. Our own family has remained healthy, but that isn’t so for families we know and love and the loss everywhere is nearly impossible to wrap our minds around. Nearly 21,000 New Yorkers, dead from a virus in little more than two months time.

I want to lick fingers sticky with ice cream drips, and wipe sweat from upper lips, and duck into a coffee shop for an iced drink and a pee break without thinking twice. I want to be sitting in a restaurant, too close to the couple breaking up with each other at the next table. I want to sidle up next to the old women at the farmers’ market who touch all the peaches and listen to them quibble about the best way to know what’s ripe. I want an uninterrupted work day. I want my kids to come home with stories from school. I want people and our city to survive all of this so much more.

There’s been news this week of a favorite shop in the neighborhood that’s closing its storefront and nearby a beloved coffee shop that won’t be opening its doors again. Friends have put bunk beds and strollers to the curb and decided to leave the city altogether. The public school sent an email with a form asking families to send word if they’re not planning to return in the fall.

Have mercy and don’t ask me my future plans. Faye is pining for an apartment with a backyard. Silas is pining to go to the playgrounds. Calder is oblivious to it all, only pining for milk.

Yesterday, Faye turned six, which I thought might make me feel melancholy but instead made me feel lucky. A six year-old’s birthday in quarantine is no time for austerity measures and so I placed an online order at the local kitchen shop for glittery sprinkles and sparkly candles and rainbow striped cupcake liners. We cut unicorn horns out of painted paper and made posies of roses. James made Odette’s cupcakes and frosting. We ate strawberries in the park and came home early to avoid the public restroom. (We are always coming home early these days to avoid the public restrooms.) By candlelight and through video screens we sang happy birthday with family. We went to bed too late.

Calder and I took a long walk to run an errand this afternoon and there were ambulance sirens, but also the distant strain of an ice cream truck. Hope springs eternal.

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And now, a thank you. Like it has for so many others, this pandemic has made my work and sponsorship of this site unpredictable at best. I’ve been so touched by readers writing to check in. Since the last time I wrote, there’s been a flurry of folks sending tips via Venmo and Paypal, and buying my book, and taking my Skillshare class, and generally rooting for this little corner of the internet. I’m so incredibly grateful for the support.

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20 Comments

  • Reply Lexie May 27, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    I can’t imagine what it must be like in NYC. I am on the west coast, and I feel really confused about how to manage the phased reopening. Do we really have the resources and systems in place to manage a peak of the virus if we are hit? I am also desperate to go back to normal life and mourning the lost celebrations and social opportunities, especially with my family.

    Happy birthday to your sweet daughter! I hope you all stay healthy and safe. <3

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  • Reply Taylor N May 27, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    I have a newborn (and two older kids) too. She is a very welcome joy and distraction but I feel more vulnerable having a baby than I think I would otherwise. I’m worried for public health but increasingly more worried about kids going hungry. I’m amazed at everything we ask public schools to be/provide for kids and families. I’m incredibly grateful this is happening during spring and summer though I also feel a bit robbed of this season already and feel like it will be a dull lead up to cold season again. I’m grateful for my husband and our friendship but what I wouldn’t give to be having drinks outside with a group of girlfriends! Toddlers in church are embarrassing but what I wouldn’t give to be hushing and stilling them in a real live pew with our community! Peace to you and yours, Erin.

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  • Reply Alix May 27, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    Brava for sticking it out in the city thus far. We’ve been doing the same in our 500 sq. ft. studio, with many a conference call taken from the bathroom floor…

    I’m almost afraid to ask: which neighborhood shop and coffee spot are rumored to close? I’m already heartbroken that Long Island Bar may not reopen based on their op-ed in the Times this week : (

    • Reply Stefanie May 28, 2020 at 10:58 am

      Bravo for sticking it out. I’m sorry to cause controversy here but this is a tone deaf comment. Bravo for “choosing” to live in a shut down city that most don’t have the choice to escape. Bravo for having the privilege to live in a clean, fancy, mostly white neighborhood with access to trees and parks and fancy coffee shops and “to go” cocktails. Why do we constantly give accolades to privileged white women deliberately living in small spaces in wealthy areas? Erin this is absolutely nothing against you. This is your space and your life and you are conscious through and through. Just over the lack of knowledge elsewhere…

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      • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 28, 2020 at 11:31 am

        Hey Stefanie, I understand the spirit of your comment. The privilege of living in this neighborhood and this apartment is not lost on me, even while the challenges right now especially are many. Of course we’re acutely aware that there are families who are suffering in ways we can only imagine. As always, it’s the poor communities of color who suffer the most. The maps showing the impacts of the virus on New York City highlight the stark divides along racial and economic lines in ways that should take all of our breath away. I don’t think I’m deserving of any special accolades, and while we live in this apartment for many reasons, including it being what we can afford, and what makes James’s already considerable commute manageable, and what’s close by to family, it is certainly a choice and a privilege.

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      • Reply Milou May 28, 2020 at 7:54 pm

        I agree with your politics. I guess I interpreted the comment as, “Hey, I’m a neighbor and I want to connect in a time that feels really weird”. I think it’s ok to say bravo for a family making it work in a small, medium or large space. I think connection feels really important right now.

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      • Reply Alix May 28, 2020 at 10:32 pm

        Hi Stefanie,
        I think perhaps my comment was misinterpreted a bit as some of the conclusions you’ve drawn about me are incorrect. In fact, I do not identify as white (I’m mixed race) and my partner and I live in a studio because we cannot afford a one bedroom in our building. I don’t expect accolades for that, but wanted to give kudos to Erin for literally living her values of simple living, even when times are really tough. I know she has family nearby, so that may have been an option, but many of us do not have that choice as you said. I am really feeling the loss of many small businesses in the neighborhood, so i simply wanted to enquire about that. I apologize if I caused any harm. Take care.

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  • Reply julie May 27, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    Chiming in to say that we’re sticking it out too in our 380 sf (2 adults, 1 newly-minted 5-year-old, and 1 kitty). My minimalist birthday notions flew out the window this time as well, in favor of Candyland and too many presents to count (vs the usual 1 gift the kiddo typically gets from his parents). Here’s hoping that all that’s lost will lead to some hopeful corners turned. Sending love all around. xox!

  • Reply Rebecca Ringquist May 27, 2020 at 11:19 pm

    As always, your writing is so beautiful, so perfectly captures the mood…. I’m very grateful for your words- sending you and your city that was once my city so many long distance hugs, all the way from Portland, OR.

  • Reply Claire May 28, 2020 at 12:53 am

    I’m grateful for your continued writing, Erin! I admire your balance of lighter posts, along with the necessary heavier ones. Although I don’t yet have kids myself, I also appreciate your candidness on the challenges of working from home with children and the way in which you (and James!) address the societal burden on women to do it alone, silently.

    As for me, my last day of my AmeriCorps term is Friday. It’s come a month earlier than expected due to lost funding for our program. I’m so sad to leave my students abruptly during a time that caring educators are needed most. The ability to check in with them virtually now and then has sustained me during this strange time, and I’ve heard directly from my students that they have enjoyed it, too. In the evenings, I’ve completed a certificate course to teach English as a second language. I’d hoped to use it while living in another country next year, but unfortunately that’s not possible. Off to figure out my next steps and grateful to have your site to read in the meantime.

  • Reply Hanna May 28, 2020 at 3:15 am

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    Thank you.

  • Reply Francesca Kelley May 28, 2020 at 6:30 am

    I live in an old farmhouse in the village. I still drive to work 40 hours a week. I am in healthcare. I miss my family. I miss hugging my sweet 5 year old Godchild. I want to show her how to plant vegetables in the garden and know when to pick them. I want to go on a vacation wherever I want to again. I miss coffee shops. I think about life now in the “city.” I fill my mind with planting vegetables and flowers, and a violin I started to play early this year. I wonder what the future will be like when this is all over, but we will adapt to the change. Just like the people that have gone before us.

  • Reply Charlotte May 28, 2020 at 9:16 am

    Living out of Brooklyn for the time being, but I too call BK heights my home. Thanks for this post, and all your work that I do find both calming and uplifting. Also wondering which neighborhood shop and coffee shop might close…

  • Reply Lee May 28, 2020 at 10:49 am

    I love seeing your family creating celebratory moments in the middle of what feels like a dark time! Happy Birthday to Faye! My husband and I are gearing up to welcome our first child this summer in 680 sq ft in DC–though part of me wants to pack up everything in our apartment and move to a house in the country with decent WiFi. I wonder about how we’ll manage child care and working remotely and I try not to worry about how the recession with effect my husband’s job over the next few months. I miss popping by our favorite neighborhood ice cream shop and meeting up with friends for coffee. But I’m grateful for the extra togetherness that my husband and I have had over the last two months. Cheers to hope, babies and birthdays!

  • Reply Gill May 28, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    I live north of the city, in a smaller city in New York, and we’re all on edge not only because of the virus and it brings, but also because of those wealthy city folks who wish to ‘escape.’ And I get why they want to run and it’s great they have such privilege (though it’s heart crushing to know that those left behind, as always, are the poor and the communities of color. left behind to suffer the consequences and face reality), but they’re running into smaller towns and cities that will suffer not just from the virus, but now also this rush of wealthy people. We’re looking at housing costs going up and our job markets being pressured even more. Towns that might have been able to possibly start to reopen are looking at having to continue to stay shut because the rich escape not just with their money, but germs. And not all of these towns can support this. Other people will suffer because the wealthy want to escape. I’m worried to watch how this affects our already struggling areas.

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 28, 2020 at 1:19 pm

      I hear that. To state the most obvious thing: it’s incredible to see the ways that crises of this kind lay bare the gross inequities that already exist. Both the response to and the impact of the virus demonstrate so clearly how a lack of a social safety net will continue to exacerbate the already glaring wealth disparities in our country. What’s needed of course is a collectivist response and what we have is a culture and a country deeply committed to individualism.

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  • Reply Stephanie May 28, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    I hope the worst is behind NYC. I hope, hope, hope. But I can’t help believing in my heart of hearts the worst is still ahead for almost all the rest of us. It feels like we are skating across ice about to crack.

    1
  • Reply Anna May 29, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    As always, thank you for this. I share a lot of the same thoughts and feelings and it always feels good to read them elsewhere. A reminder that we’re all pining for what was and doing our best with what is.

  • Reply Amanda Krieger May 29, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    i live in a 3,000 sq ft home on over an acre in a place where COVID has not decimated. Everyone around me is pointing fingers at our governor, calling him an emperor for mandating masks, stirring up conspiracy theories about how this is step one to government control. It’s really painful to watch, impossible to argue with, and the privilege is appalling.
    it is odd to be relatively untouched by something that is literally ravaging other parts of the country. i read an article that said that the U.S. hasn’t gotten COVID yet. NYC and Seattle has. From where I sit, that really feels true. We haven’t gotten it yet.
    I think of you all in NYC every day. Stay safe.

  • Reply Lauren May 30, 2020 at 11:04 am

    As always, well well said.

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