I remember it like it was yesterday.
Spring Break 2020 came and stayed … for seven months.
The novel coronavirus slipped into our city with little warning.
All I needed to hear from scientists is that COVID-19 was contagious and people died from it.
For my family, extended and the people I lived with, COVID-19 was no hoax.
We bought masks and canceled vacation, canceled summer camp and canceled any gatherings.
What we could not see wanted to kill us. It wanted to kill me and my husband, Ron, because we are older parents. The decision was made: We were not going anywhere until Dr. Anthony Fauci — the chief medical adviser to the president — said we could.
Reagan, Kennedy and Carter finished their second- and first-grade year at home seeing classmates and teachers over an iPad. It was not easy because they did not understand what was happening. There was a lot of crying. The kids. Me. Oy!
Summer was easy. No structure. I was able to work while the kids spent time on their iPads reading books and playing Roblox.
Them: “Mom, can I have 80 more robux?”
Me: “I just gave you 800. I am out of money.”
Them: “Mom, maybe if you got a job and didn’t sit in front of your computer all day?”
Me: “Ask Siri to show you how to sell your own robux, OK?”
As the summer went on, so did the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. July proved stressful because we had to decide whether to send the kids back into the classroom or keep them at home. I cried a lot.
When school began in August we opted for remote learning. Heights at Home is what our school district called it. We committed to nine weeks with the option of returning to the classroom.
“We’ve got this,” I said to my husband. “What kind of mother sends her precious babies to school during a pandemic?”
Yeah, I know, it sounds very Judge Judy, but that is where I was at.
To make this work, I needed a plan. I needed to have a schedule.
“Ron, you will work with Reagan and I will work with the twins,” I said. Did I mention all of our children are in Spanish immersion?
Strings of blue and gold, Alamo Heights papal picado hung on our front trees. I created Heights at Home yard signs proudly proclaiming we were keeping our babies safe. I even created a private Facebook group for other parents who made the same decision.
The upstairs playroom was cleared and became a classroom. We created a charging station for three iPads and had baskets with school supplies and books. I could do this. If I could get a serial rapist to confess to a murder back during my days as a reporter, I could manage to work from home AND be a teacher’s aide for second-grade Spanish.
No hiccups the first week. The teachers were stellar. I was optimistic. The second week, we had to separate the twins because their idea of remote learning included wrestling like puppies during class. Ron was naïve, thinking our third-grader was actually paying attention because we could hear instruction going on.
“Reagan, are you showing your face?” I would say.
Or: “Chicos, listen to your teacher. She is going to test you on vocabulario.”
At the end of the third week, I had a brilliant idea: “Ron, we need to buy swivel stools for the kids. They use them in the classroom. That’s why the kids are having a hard time sitting!”
I bought three of them from Lakeshore Learning Store. The kids sat on them for a while watching their teacher. Guess what? It gave me a good ab workout!
Five weeks in, the kids were falling behind. I felt like a complete failure. I bribed them with robux just to sit down and show their faces onscreen. When they wouldn’t complete work, I was doing the assignment for them. They even caught me using Google translate to complete math word problems.
Them: “Mom, what’s that? Siri can help us with Spanish!”
Me: “No, this is just for stressed-out moms all over the world.”
Week six, Ron and I signed a survey indicating we would leave remote learning at the end of nine weeks. The longest three weeks of my life began. I introduced mask wearing into their heads. I bought piles of masks from Alamo Heights mom Melissa Arriaga.
Them: “Mom, we can’t go to school. We are going to die!”
Me: “Don’t be silly. Everyone will wear masks.”
Them: “But, Mom, you said we would die if we were in the classroom.”
Me: “Why do you only remember the things I don’t want you to remember?”
October 19, 2020: Face to face begins. I am now a drop-off and pick-up-the-kids mom. They are thriving in school. They need the interaction with their teachers and classmates. They wear their masks.
Masks. Save. Lives.
During remote learning, I spent evenings with a glass of Mommy Juice, reading John M. Barry’s “The Great Influenza” about the 1918 pandemic. The book describes how the H1N1 started in Haskell County, Kansas (not Spain), and spread to Camp Funston and around the world through troop movements during World War I.
Some 675,000 people died in the United States. One hundred years ago, like now, some people did not want to wear masks.
Thank you, John Barry. Your book gave me hope because I knew what I was living through was not going to last forever. I realized I had to breathe, be mindful and thankful for the chance to watch my children grow up right before my eyes. No one is perfect and that’s what makes us perfect.
Spring Break 2021 lasted one week. This year, the cubs went to the Jewish Community Center for tennis camp. They wore masks.
Gina Galaviz Eisenberg is a mother of 9-year-old Reagan, and 7-year-old twins Kennedy and Carter. She and her husband, Ron, own the public-relations firm The Eisenberg Group.