PALMYRA, N.J. (AP) — All I wanted was to be home. To sleep in my bed, cook in my kitchen and greet my husband after work.
I cried a lot. I gained 10 pounds. I even started to get dry, itchy patches on the bridge of my nose and eyelids that I blamed on the air quality in Newark, the train exhaust on the PATH platform, the stinky, hot steam pouring out of sewer grates in lower Manhattan.
Me working in New York City but living just outside Philadelphia in South Jersey affected every other aspect of my life. Why not my skin?
All I wanted was to be home.
In September 2018, my editor position in Philly moved up the Turnpike. Commute or leave. Work in “the other city” or quit the job at my dream company. It was the easiest and hardest choice I’ve ever had to make.
To ease the stress and finances of a marathon commute, I stayed in the guest bedroom of two selfless friends and their two delightful children in North Jersey. There, I had my own room — hell, my own floor. Their freezer was stocked with my Trader Joe’s meatballs. My Mazda was in their driveway.
They made me feel at home. But I wasn’t home. Most nights, I’d stay at work later so I didn’t get back to their house during their family time.
Like I said, all I wanted was to be home. And on Fridays, I’d race back there to my husband. For almost 15 months, this was my life.
Last November, after months of interviews and impatient waiting, I got a promotion. A promotion that brought me back to Philadelphia, a stone’s throw from my house, my bed, my couch, my husband.
I got what I wanted. I was home.
And only a few months later, I got more home than I asked for, more home than I bargained for. It took a pandemic.
I have been home since December, but I have really been home since March 15. So has my husband. We decided his job at a grocery store, although essential, wasn’t essential for us. So he took time off.
Not only do I get to sleep in my own bed every night, I get to cook every meal in my kitchen. I get to do yoga in my own yoga room and even lead a daily session for my colleagues. Trader Joe’s meals are in my own freezer. My car is in my own driveway.
And I get to do it all with my husband. Every day, all day.
I cook, he cleans. I feed the cats in the morning, he takes the evenings. Dinners are eaten together, walks taken with one another. We point out the nicest houses with the landscaping we wish we had. Often we walk the same route to see if the dogs we pet through fences are outside.
Our family and friends are only minutes apart. Every so often, we set up lawn chairs or blankets in front of their houses for weekend afternoon visits.
Sometimes we stop at their houses on our walks and I say goodbye to them, knowing I don’t have to wait a whole week to see them again.
My husband installed my little library, an outdoor book box painted the same colors as our house. Every day I check for new submissions, gleefully bouncing around the house to tell him what’s new and what’s been borrowed.
We have our alone time, of course. But we have it together. A Post-it hangs on my computer monitor, written by him during the first few weeks of quarantine, when I wasn’t doing very well. “We’re together & we’re safe.”
The second half of that has been true for a while. But the first half is finally true again.
Virus Diary, an occasional feature, showcases the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world. See previous entries here. Follow AP News Editor Christina Paciolla on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cpaciolla