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How Was I Elected Cruise Director of My Family?

It wasn’t a job I applied for or aspired to, but I have become the Quarantine Cruise Director in my house while we’re under a stay-at-home order. Right now, I am tapping into the portion of my brain reserved for Jeopardy trivia, getting ready for “game night” with the family. My heart isn’t in it, but for the sake of my family I am hosting a Trivial Pursuit match of guys against the gals. The guys will talk trash. The gals will win.

Two nights ago, I organized an obsessive six-hour jigsaw puzzle marathon with my college-aged daughter, who has moved back home because her university is shuttered. Who knew there would be so many puzzle pieces that looked alike in a New York City skyline puzzle?

Recently I woke up and had a thirty-minute brain meltdown. I could not come up with anything to have for dinner, despite the fact that we had just masked-up and ventured to the grocery store. I decided we would roast hot dogs over our backyard firepit. S’mores afterwards soothed the anxiety of this lockdown. Or so I told myself. But really? Hot dogs on a stick meant everyone made their own, and I didn’t have to think about it. Slap it in a bun and call it a meal. Even the Quarantine Cruise Director needs a day off.

We’re going through way too much food right now. Suddenly these kids who skip breakfast most of the time want three squares a day, seven days a week. We also succumbed to the banana bread trend and made two loaves. It’s like a 24/7 diner around here, and it keeps me busy.

I think my high school-aged son has morphed into a vampire. I’ve even checked his neck for tell-tale fang marks. He sleeps all day and is up all night—doing “some” homework and watching movies in the den with us, but also playing video games and talking to his friends online—who all seem to be vampires too, thankfully. Staying connected is important right now, so I don’t discourage his late-night schedule.

I haven’t always been my family’s Quarantine Cruise Director.

As a writer and editor, I’ve worked from home for 25 years. I always thought the number-one advantage was getting to work in my pajamas. Now I have declared every day a pajama party, and my entire family is living in pjs and sweats.

I have been watching all my kids to see how the stress of this crisis is affecting them. And it is affecting them. They are coping with feelings of sadness, loss, fear. The unknown. Everyone is just a little edgy.

The first couple of days during our shelter-in-place, we binge-watched shows on Netflix. But eventually, we all seemed to crave activities that connected us and inspired conversation.

I have taught my kids to play poker and rummy. We talk aimlessly as we lay down our cards. I almost feel as if I’ve traveled back in time to my girlhood, a time filled with rummy-playing grandparents, and my late father, the World’s Worst Poker Player—and a notorious cheat. The memories make me smile and remember a time before all this uncertainty.

So yes, for better or worse, I have become my family’s Quarantine Cruise Director. I’m thinking up new things for us to do as a family and mustering an energy and optimism I don’t particularly feel. But I know that connecting with each other is important for everyone’s mental health, including mine. Because, right now, we’re all we’ve got.

Now, who’s ready for a board game?

Erica Orloff

Erica Orloff is freelance writer and novelist based in Virginia. She is mom of four, a fanatical Yankees fan, and a collector of Buddha statues. Follow her on Twitter: @ericaorloff.

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