In our household, lockdown ‘officially ‘ended today with the departure of our 26-year-old daughter Claire, driving back to what she calls her “adult life” in Auckland.

Her 53-day stay began March 25, and personally, I would prefer to stay in lockdown permanently if it meant we still had Claire captive here, organising our lives (wife Brooks’ and mine) and disrupting our routines and habits for the better.

Claire is a super-organiser.

Before we knew what hit us, we were instructed to each make up a list of 15 meals we individually would be responsible for preparing. Out came the cookbooks, in my case three by Rick Stein – Secret France, From Venice to Istanbul, and Long Weekends. After strenuous negotiations and horse-trading (both Brooks and Claire seriously avoid meat), we arrived at a menu for 30 days (and subsequently updated), which was affixed ceremoniously to the fridge door.

And boy did we eat well! Certainly by their standards. Who knew how many uses there were for chickpeas, kale, lentils and eggplant?! I did manage to squeeze in the occasional lamb and chicken, exotically prepared if I may say so.

Effectively, for most of the last 53 days, the kitchen was the epicenter of the universe, full of banter and back-seat interference from the two ‘off duty’ chefs of the day. The biggest disputes occurred around spices (especially chili powder/flakes), dough making, the use of walnuts (yuck!), and baking times/oven settings.

With all that food (and drink), exercise became the next – but distinctly second – priority.

Claire is seriously into fitness, her mom a bit less dedicated (but psychologically committed), and then there’s me, for whom rocking in my office desk chair is my primary exercise.

So of course Claire pushed us on that front as well.

A walk I occasionally take down the steep road on which we live, at a well-honed 12 minutes down and 18 minutes back up, became a veritable sprint with Claire, compounded by her expectation of conversation bothdirections … the result being a chest-busting uphill endurance test, with increasingly terse comments and a few minutes shaved off the total time. But I did get better at it and held my weight stable for the duration.

During the weekdays, the three of us mostly retreated to our private spaces to do work. Each of us has jobs (‘pursuits’ in my case) that fortunately maintained considerable activity over the lockdown. Collectively we used heaps of bandwidth and plenty of Zooming. Occasionally we would break out of our cells and join up … to eat lunch and discuss dinner of course.

Evenings were a mixture of reading, dissecting the sorry state of the planet (and the US in particular, given our roots), watching TV (on an actual television), and cut-throat card-playing … 300 Rummy the game of choice (cut down from 500 by the less competitive to my dismay). By the end, any one of us could win, although this was accompanied by a great deal of flack aimed at the consistently slowest player in the bubble.

So the Belfords were pretty comfortably settled into lockdown. I left the property five times over the 53 days – to fetch a prescription, get a flu shot, drive Claire to the grocery store (and sneak a visit to the post office) and just recently, trips to the transfer station and to Ocean Beach (with a stop at the Red Bridge Café). Brooks, a few grocery trips.

We appreciate that our bubble was a privileged and stress-less one – work to do from home, plenty of internet access, amiable housemates, no lack of food and other necessities, space to enjoy (both private and outdoor), no kids to entertain or home school, and no responsibilities that put us on the demanding and dangerous front line of coping with Covid-19 or maintaining essential services.

We have enormous respect for those who have been out front in the community or who have had to cope with different and far more difficult living conditions. Hopefully those circumstances will now begin to improve for all.

But it’s now been about two hours since our family’s lockdown ‘officially’ ended. And for me, perhaps selfishly, that’s still two hours too soon.

And with a little planning, maybe we’d all be better off with a one-month national lockdown every year. How about July? I’ll start working working on the menu now.

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