Letter to the Editor: Dreaming of home but I'll bide my time

An Irish emigrant who has lived through lockdown in New York in the United States expects to visit home later in the year or in 2021 
Letter to the Editor: Dreaming of home but I'll bide my time
Foreign travel is not on the horizon for many people just yet. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA

"Maybe we’ll see how this virus plays out first before I book flights over.” My mum said over our weekly WhatsApp video chat in mid-February.

We had been discussing her coming over for another spring, my birthday visit once again.

At the end of the month I was at my friend’s house celebrating a birthday when someone sneezed, we joked and said she got the “rona”. 

Fast forward 10 days later when talks at work around the water cooler began to circulate that we were soon going to work from home and probably would be for the rest of March. The number of Covid-19 cases was climbing, but I still didn’t think it was serious and it would be confined to upstate New York. How wrong was I?

As the days went on I didn’t need an excuse to not go to the gym — gym was closed, I didn’t need an excuse to not go out on St Paddy’s — St Paddy’s was cancelled. Cases were increasing day by day, Elmhurst hospital in Queens became the epicentre within the epicentre, Elmhurst hospital is four stops away on the local train. 

The daily death toll was more than 700, sirens were going off, temporary hospitals were being set up all over the city — in Central Park, the US National  Tennis Center, even on the Hudson River — helicopters were heard throughout the day. I was frightened. 

My daily walks were confined to five minutes after the 9am hour or not at all, I turned off the news and listened to music. I had to snooze some Facebook groups as people were posting pictures of refrigerated morgues within walking distance of my house. 

I heard of people who left the US right before they couldn’t, it never really entered my head to go home, but when I heard of others who left on a one-way ticket to Dublin, it planted a seed, but I knew my chance was gone.

My sanity was saved by picking up the phone and talking to people, a makeup-free face and frizzy hair made appearances on video conference calls, even posting a makeup-free face to Instagram, without filter; vanity had no place in a pandemic.

Reminding myself how lucky I am and practicing gratitude is also a saviour. I have an employer who cares, being able to work from the safety of my own home until at least October. 

Reporting for duty at my kitchen table has become the norm, they have reminded us on numerous occasions that we’re not working from home, we’re trying to work at home during a global crisis.

As cliched as it sounds, these daily reminders got me through those dark days in April, May, June and even now.

So now, it’s July and New York is doing good, but the rest of the US is not so good. My summer trip home is now realistically looking like it could be at the earliest a long extended winter trip, or maybe even more realistically, Summer 2021 when I get to see 40 shades of green again. 

It does stress me out, when I let myself think about the next trip home, not just the flight, but the whole airport experience. 

Will wearing masks at the airport, getting our temperature taken, become second nature to us the way only 3oz liquids are permitted in our carry-ons, or taking our shoes off, standing in the X-ray machine with our hands overhead and who knows what happens on the other side? 

I would probably have to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks before being able to go to my Mum’s house.

Mum’s spring trip to New York for my birthday was postponed and it was okay. I celebrated virtually with friends and family throughout the day from around the world.

Home is always there and I will get there soon. I will walk through my fear and watch it disappear as I board flight EI 108 non-stop to Dublin.

Selina Patton


New York

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