15 April, Fellbach, Germany

By Juliane Schumacher

The weather has turned cooler after mild Easter days, but the morning is sunny and I can sit outside in the small garden of my parents’ house. This small garden is one of the reason that I left Berlin and came back to stay with my family for at least two weeks. I felt it was not possible to stay any longer in my tiny flat in Berlin all alone with my kids without getting crazy. So, when my older kids went to their father’s place for the next two weeks, I took the car and drove to my home town in the south of Germany.

Here, life feels much more normal than in Berlin. In Berlin, the lockdown rules are stricter, you are just allowed to leave the house for a reason – to walk, do sports, go to the grocery store. Usually we have a tight schedule, me going to work, the kids to school and kindergarten. In the afternoon, they do sports or we spend time at the playgrounds with their friends. Now all playgrounds are closed, they are not allowed to meet friends anymore, there is nothing to do other than to sit at home, do school work, watch, play until they are too frustrated and start fighting with each other.

In Baden-Württemberg, the federal state where my parents live, the rules are different. It is still permitted to visit family members at home and there is no restriction at leaving the house, although most people try to stay at home most of the day. My parents are still working, so the days have more structure. I have all my family here, and as they are living just a few blocks away, we can meet and talk – a relief after almost complete isolation over the last weeks.

At Easter we did some visits, one by one, meeting outside in the gardens or the courtyards, taking care to stay away from each other. In the afternoon, I met with my sister; she is at home with her three small daughters now. Her husband is a farmer, he has more work than ever before, getting up at 3.30 at the morning to start working with his father who is almost 80, while his mother sells vegetables and fruits in their small shop. When he came in the afternoon to sit down with us, he almost fell asleep.

I enjoyed being in their garden, they have kind of a playground there, even a trampoline. At the beginning, we tried to keep the kids away from each other, but soon we gave up. We had both stayed in more or less complete quarantine with them over the last weeks, so we decided there was not a high risk of transmitting the infection.

My sister is nervous, not sleeping a lot. She had gone back to work in February after some years at home, but now, like me, is trying to work from home while taking care of her kids. She is living in the house of her parents-in-law, and usually they cook and eat together, but have stopped that now. Her parents-in-law are suffering, they love their grandchildren and want to continue seeing them. She also stopped meeting my parents first – usually her mother-in-law and my mother take care of her girls in the afternoon – but when she was close to breakdown after three weeks, my parents talked to her and finally she accepted that my mother takes her girls once or twice a week to support her.

This morning, like every morning, my mother and I tried to get my daughter do her homework. The teachers gave us two folders full of work sheets, and told us to do three to four hours a day. The first days went well, but from the second week onwards she refused to do her homework, and now we discuss and argue for two hours just to finish one page. She was ok in school until the lockdown, but now I am afraid she will be totally behind, because we have not even finished half of what we should.

I gave up and went shopping for my grandmother. She is 94 and still living alone. When I arrived to bring her the groceries she asked for she loves to bake, so she always needs a lot of flour, eggs, sugar and so on – she was preparing the table for the woman who comes to clean
once a week. My grandmother is a very social person, she loves to host people. Every day members of the family visit her, and when the nurses and carers come to wash and look after her, she always invites them to sit with her for a coffee. When she learnt about the restrictions – she still reads the newspaper daily and follows the news closely – she said directly that she wanted the carers to continue to come.  To her relief, they accepted. My grandmother is much more afraid of being left alone than of catching the virus. I am 94, she said, I have lived a long and good life, I don’t care if I die by this virus or by another, just in case I catch it, don’t take me to a hospital, but let me die at home. So now that I am here, I visit her every day, and we sit and chat and try to find other topics to talk about than the virus that is affecting all our lives so powerfully at this time.