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THE COMFORT OF ROUTINE

The St. Bonaventure Church and Catholic School occupies the southwestern corner of the neighborhood where we live. The first church bells ring Monday through Friday at eight-fifteen, chiming a hymn before the eight-thirty Mass. Then the bells chime five minutes before Mass and at Mass time and every hour from nine am to eight pm. On Sunday, first bell is at nine and then bells chime before the ten-thirty, noon, one-thirty and five pm Masses.

We’ve lived here for over twenty years and before the pandemic I’d grown so accustomed to the bells that I’d stopped hearing them. Now they are part of our daily routine. They’re not real bells. They’re recordings. Even so, the eight-fifteen hymn was lovely last Saturday when I was out for an earlier-than-usual walk. I recognized the melody from my own Methodist church going days.


Normally we head out a little later. We hear the nine am bells as we walk past the daily mass in the church parking lot. It might be comforting to join them, we always agree, but we always keep walking. On our way home, we count political flags. Michelle Steele is currently the winner. We don’t find that comforting.


We don’t usually notice the church’s hourly bells as our pandemic day unfolds. The daily after breakfast clean up, the den-tidying, the cat-feeding, the litter-box-cleaning, the making of the bed. The choreography of unloading the dishwasher. The weekly grocery shopping. The dropping off mail at the post office because we’re no longer sure our mail carrier will show up every day. We are skilled at birthday cards, sympathy condolences, and cutting articles from the newspaper and dropping them into the mail. We have turned into our grandparents.


After lunch we drive to Leisure World to check on my dad. When we come home, I write, my husband practices ukulele, and then we read. We sit outside and listen to our own collection of bells. One of the many is pictured here. When the ocean breeze picks up around 4 pm we find the sound comforting. Hopefully, our neighbors do too.


By six o’clock, if we can’t find a musician or an author on Eventbrite or Instagram Live or Facebook Live, we watch last night’s Trevor Noah and Steven Colbert and eat our chicken salad dinners. After the dishes are put away, we turn to Netflix. Lately we’re hooked on the ultra-violent “Queen of the South.” These days cartel mayhem is somehow easier to watch than the decline of democracy on CNN.


Sometimes, to avoid the torture scenes, I go out on the front porch and listen for the eight o’clock bells. We eventually go to bed. We eventually fall into sleep. Then there is the routine of waking up at two am and three and four. There is the giving up and getting up at five am or six.


And of course, there’s the constant email/Facebook/Instagram/Twitter checking that I know I should curtail because I’ve seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix but frankly, I’m completely addicted. I reach for my phone constantly, looking for something to read, to watch, to hear, when what I’m really searching for is companionship, validation, human contact. I’ve had much too little of that these last six months.


I know I’m not the only one.


I look at the calendar and count the days to the election. It breaks my heart that neither John Prine nor Ruth Bader Ginsberg will be able to vote. They’d both tell us to carry on though—Mr. Prine and his irrepressible optimism and deep comprehension of our human condition, Ms. Ginsberg and her amazing work ethic and devotion to justice and equality.


I hear twelves bells now which means it’s time for lunch. The afternoon will progress. It’ll be evening and sunset and eventually this day will be over. Tomorrow is another chance.


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