“We just wanted to see kids happy,” said Tina Clark, who organized a bear hunt in the McLean, Va., neighborhood of Potomac Hills, where her family has lived for 11 years. She had read about such collective actions in The Washington Post’s Optimist newsletter.
The idea is that people arrange teddy bears in their front windows that kids can spot when they venture outside.
Tina said that while it’s sad that pedestrians have to avoid each other while strolling on the streets — maintaining their distance — it’s nice to see people out and about. Last week she prepared a document with the location of the different bears in her neighborhood and distributed it to the neighborhood message group.
“I’m still running into families doing the bear hunt,” said Tina, who placed a teddy bear from the “Mr. Bean” show in her window. (“He wears a little tie and business suit,” she said.)
One Potomac Hills porch sports a bear with a mask on its face, a Clorox wipe in one paw and toilet paper in the other. Others have Pokémon (Pokémen?), Minions, the Phillie Phanatic . . .
“In one family, two little kids drew a teddy bear and stuck it on their front door,” Tina said. “They were not going to be deterred.”
Kristi Raymond and her children — Abigail, 8; Anna, 14; and J.T., 17 — created a little tableau: the three bears from Goldilocks sitting down for porridge.
The teddy bear on the left was passed down from Kristi’s grandmother. The one in the middle was Kristi’s. The smallest is Abigail’s, from the Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho.
“I guess it’s three generations of bears there,” Kristi said.
We no longer have children living at the Kelly home, so we don’t have the great drifts of teddy bears that once accumulated in their rooms. But our Silver Spring, Md., neighborhood is also bear-hunting. We taped three plush Washington Nationals racing presidents in the window. Including Teddy Roosevelt, of course.
Kristi — she of the Three Bears window display — was well prepared when many of us had to start working from home. She teaches math over the Web for Washington state’s Bellevue College.
“I feel really lucky I was already teaching online,” she said. She already had her lectures and assignments prepared. “The only challenge is, I’m used to working in a quiet house. Now I get way less done. The house is full.”
We’ve noticed something else about the stay-at-home order: We miss our commutes. My Lovely Wife had a horrible commute: from Silver Spring to Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia. But in a way, she actually longs for it.
A commute is a forced cessation of work. For however long it is — 20 minutes, an hour — you have an excuse for not taking phone calls, filling spreadsheets, answering emails. But if your “office” is not far from your bed, you don’t get that hard break.
What unlikely or surprising challenges have you noticed from staying at home? Email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Lockdown challenge” in the subject line.
With so many grocery store shelves empty, Jack French of Fairfax, Va., has been remembering how the United States once handled shortages: rationing.
He grew up during World War II, when the federal government issued every household a ration book. Shoppers handed over stamps for each scarce grocery item.
Butter, sugar and meat were the most desirable items, Jack said. But something that wasn’t technically rationed was also in short supply: laundry detergent. Many manufacturers had switched to making explosives.
Jack’s father ran a grocery store in Wisconsin. Soap got progressively more rare, to the point where only one case was delivered every four to six weeks. Jack’s father and his eight clerks would each buy one box and then put the rest on the shelves, where they were quickly snapped up by alert customers.
“Nearly everyone dried their clothes on backyard lines in those days,” Jack wrote. “Some irate customers, seeing our family clothes on the line, confronted Dad with holding out on them and threatened to send their dirty laundry to our house for washing. So Dad strung clothes lines in our big basement and Mom dried our clothes down there.”
You know, if we all stop washing our clothes, it might make social distancing easier.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.