A different kind of break

Nyomi Fox

More stories from Nyomi Fox

Last year, our homes were refuges from school. The drama, stress, tension and tests that filled our school buildings didn’t have to follow us to our homes — unless we let them. Home was a bus ride, car ride, bike ride or long walk from school. Coming home after a long day was a breath of relief, as we escaped the bodies of people and mounds of paper that suffocated us at school. More or less, “what happened at school stayed at school.”

Now, things are a little different. With school embodied by a computer or laptop or some other portable device, home is no longer a safe haven. As a matter a fact, home is school and school is home. There’s no more leaving school to go home or leaving home to go to school. Our situation is like a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, except slightly less adored by the general public.

So as winter break neared, there wasn’t much to anticipate. As a Jewish person, there was even less to anticipate, as I had already celebrated my climactic winter holiday, Hanukkah. There is very little to do during winter in a pandemic. It’s too cold to be outside and too dangerous to be inside indoor venues. But it turns out I was wrong to treat this break as a meaningless stretch of time.

On the first official day of winter break, I saw my mom recline in a chair, the sort of reclining that people do when they aren’t operating under a time constraint or buried by an avalanche of work. My mom is a teacher, specifically a teacher who pours every morsel of her energy into her job. But during virtual learning, her effort isn’t as frequently reciprocated. Hence, frustration, aggravation, anger and anxiety envelopes her, every day of the week.

Watching her recline caused me to realize that this winter break is truly different than all those that came before it. As school trespassed in our homes, we started to forget what it was like to value our homes as havens. Regardless of the size of one’s home, it was taken hostage by our schools. This break is like meeting our homes for the first time, appreciating the small joys of sitting at a table without staring at a computer screen. Although we are unable to travel or gather as we used to, this break may be everything we needed to restart.

Also on the first day of break, I read a book in bed, not thinking at all about the presence or location of my laptop. I sat with my parents and talked with them about matters unrelated to Zoom. I kept my laptop shut. I redecorated my bedroom walls because I remembered they existed.

This pandemic has forced us to appreciate a lot of things — time with family and friends, large gatherings, travelling and simple outings without fear — but staying home is not one. These 11-or-so days are an opportunity to reclaim our homes, rediscover our fondest nooks and crannies. And when we return to school, aka click our Zoom links, we don’t have to let it take over our space again. Keep school reserved to a single space in your home, allowing other areas to be your new — while less separated — refuges.