Staying At Home

June 12th, 2020

By Karen Osburn, City of Geneva Historian

Old archivists never really retire, they just keep collecting information. One of my first thoughts when New York State went on” PAUSE” was how could we get people to record what they are doing to cope with the changes in our everyday lives that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused?  My second thought was how can we encourage people to record their feelings about social distancing?

I realize that it isn’t easy to discipline yourself to keep a journal if you don’t already write an entry regularly; even with my years of training and the numerous journals I have been gifted with I seldom write down what is going on in my life.  Still, there is no time like the present to start recording my “Stay-at-Home” experiences and I am starting now.

cat sitting on a carpet

Cat Help Clio

The country and state started to shut down just before my birthday.  I had gone out for lunch with family a few days before my birthday and by the next day the decision had been made to close church, schools, libraries, and museums.  I have season tickets to GEVA with some friends and the last two plays were cancelled.  I have season tickets to Geneva Concerts and the last concert was cancelled.  The students who walk past our house on the way to Geneva High School and Middle School vanished.  I started collecting e-mails from businesses on what they were doing to continue to serve the community needs during the pandemic. Hobart and William Smith Colleges decided to offer distance learning for those students who did not want to return to campus after spring break, then they decided to insist on distance learning and closed much of the campus.  Finally, Hobart and William Smith, Geneva High School joined with other educational institutions in much of our nation and decided to cancel in person graduation ceremonies.

I could go on about the changes and how social distancing affected my life, but we all know its ramifications on us, our actions and our household economy. Instead I want to write about how we cope in our house and how we feel about some of the changes.

The hardest thing for us to cope with is not socializing in person with family and friends.  We have Skyped, Face Timed, Zoomed, Zooroomed and phoned our friends and family and while it is helpful and we are grateful for the technology it is not the same as being together and giving someone a hug.

Cat trying to climb into a lap

Cat Help Widget

We can still attend church through Facebook Live or YouTube.  It is nice to sit in your arm chair with a cat and “attend” religious services.  When life gets back to “normal”, whatever it may look like, I will miss going to church with my cat.

The other thing about our house is that we aren’t bored.  On good days we work in the yard, on days when the weather is refusing to commit to spring we read or research on the computer or clean. We are also staff to our cats, which can be endlessly entertaining. I am working on sorting out craft materials. Surprise! It turns out I have a lot more than I thought. I also decided to try a new hobby, wood burning.  Thank heavens for Amazon, Michaels and all the internet stores that allow you to order things from businesses not open to the public.

When I do go to one of the essential businesses that are open, I wear a mask.  We have had two good friends supply us with cloth face masks.  Those of you who know me well won’t be surprised to know that I was delighted when one of the masks was purple! So far, we have used them to go to Wal-Mart, the pet store, and get an auto inspection.  A wonderful neighbor who works for Instacart part-time has offered to get us groceries so we don’t have to go out.

On a couple of sunny days, I have driven to my favorite ice cream drive through, ordered a favorite flavor and eaten it in my car looking at Keuka Lake. We have supported our local restaurants by ordering from those who have take-out.  We are also making note of the generosity of individuals and businesses so we can offer them support when they need it or when they reopen.

Cat Helper Nick

Cat Helper Nick

I also stepped up my cooking and baking.  It is a wonderful and creative outlet. We have friends drop off delicious bread on our doorstep reminding me that this is one of those times when I notice the good a crisis brings out in others.

Of course, there are people who are finding this isolation very hard financially, emotionally, and physically and my heart goes them.  I had someone close to me need surgery and it distressed me immensely that I could not be with them to offer support or help them with their recovery. This shutdown is not easy to accept or deal with, still it could be worse and I am grateful for what I have and what I can do.  We will survive this and a good attitude can only help.

What might future historians and generations need to understand the COVID-19 Pandemic?  All of us have a story to tell on how the pandemic is affecting our lives.  Are you in an at-risk group or have someone in your home who is?  How has the stay-at-home order affected you?  Do you shop less or use a grocery delivery service?  For students at home, what has your experience been like? What is your new normal?    Join the Geneva Historical Society in documenting this historic moment through “We Stay At Home: A Record of Geneva During the 2020 Pandemic.”  Share your story through narratives (a letter, poem, song, recipes, and short story), images (photographs, screenshots of social media, memes), audio, videos, and files (emails, flyers, announcement, text messages, tweets).  To share your story, go to

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