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Author / gingermouse

Journal of Pandemic Medicine

Background: Compared to adults most children don’t get as sick from SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19), are hospitalized and/or have complications less often, and rarely die. Minimizing the impact of Covid-19 on children, though, serves to divert attention from our collective obligation to protect children from harm. It also risks ignoring another Covid-19 related crisis: children’s mental health. Kids need safe spaces to gather in. They need to interact with their friends, grandparents, and teachers. Covid-19 has changed the most basic rules of childhood and it is hurting our children.

Objective: To describe how this pandemic is harming children’s mental health.

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I wrote this in the depths of January 2021. Tomorrow my girls will start what may be a semi-normal school year, drifting in the ebbs and flows of Covid, hopefully dodging the worst of it.

Yesterday my daughters’ remote school class started virtual recorder lessons. Not only that, when one of my children couldn’t find her recorder from last year, Ms. Lincoln, the music teacher dropped off two new ones, one for each sister. My husband summed up recorder class with one word as I walked in the door: “TWEEEEET.” It was as loud and shrill as the class must have been. The class, of course, took place in the middle of his work day.  

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Six Words

Where has Dr. Gingermouse been? Well, in addition to the usual demands of working as a hospitalist during a pandemic, schooling the kids at home, and doctoring a dog with a toenail injury, I’m also taking a writing class. The class is asynchronous. Though I communicate with my classmates daily, I have never met them, even over Zoom.

Last week we worked on brevity. I love a rambling sentence peppered with misplaced commas, but our first assignment was to create a six word story. At first I panicked. But once I got going, I couldn’t stop. All day I was thinking in six word sentences so I grouped some of them together. (Possessed by 6, avoiding longer sentences. Meant individually, just kept coming, though. Defeating the purpose of spare prose?)

You might call it a poem but I haven’t written poetry since high school and I don’t claim to know anything about it. So we’ll call it a story. I wrote it on the day the United States reached 500,000 Covid deaths.

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Did You Tell Him

“Did you tell him who you are?” a woman on the street asked me.

It was below freezing and the sky was a thick gray.  Behind me two women bundled in heavy coats and scarves drank coffee together at a fire table. To my left, plate glass windows barely hid racks of pre-made sandwiches and baked goods in what used to be a dining area. The tables and chairs were stacked against the wall. In front of me was what looked like a hastily constructed mandap with a green metal roof instead of draped silk fabric. One of the legs of the structure had a crack running from the bottom of the post to my eye level, stopping just short of the edge. The only adornments on the mandap were a laminated sign with a typo and a round sticker encouraging six feet distancing. The canopy shielded the takeout window of a farm-to-table cafe. A man hustled between the window and the food preparation room behind the plate glass, delivering orders to customers. 

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Interlocking Pieces: On the Occasion of a Big Birthday

Standing taller than us in the back corner of my brother’s childhood bedroom was a particle board bookshelf, medium brown like our skin. My brother and dad assembled it themselves from a box; I got to put wood-printed stickers over the exposed screws. He always displayed his latest Lego creation on the middle shelf, just at little sister height. These constructions hinted at his future engineering degree: pulled from big Expert Builder sets he made cars with nubby monster truck wheels, gears, and working motors.

Growing up I adored my older brother. I listened to the music he listened to, I wanted to attend the college he attended (I didn’t get accepted there but it turned out pretty well for me), and I was in awe of his Lego skills.

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Happy Sam

The first thing I did when I got to the beach was look for Flappy, our ring billed gull friend who has a short left leg and a crimped left foot. We first met her six years ago when she found some vegetables that fell off my pizza; we’ve been seeing her at the beach ever since. Flappy, named in 2014 by my then toddlers, hops with her right foot and sweeps the sand with her left; she’s small but can squawk as loud as the other seagulls. The only consequence she seems to face is that she’s an easy target for some children to chase.

Flappy, drying her feathers.

Flappy and I know each other now. I like to think that we seek each other out. Certainly she is no longer scared of me and my DSLR; she has posed for many pictures. On this particular beach, the one to which my in-laws have been graciously welcoming me since I was just the girl their middle son was dating, Flappy and I make a good, conspicuous team.  She stands out because of her foot and I stand out because usually I am the only person on the mile long beach with brown skin.  

The last time I was at the beach melanin was on my mind even more than usual. Kamala Harris had just been selected as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee. At work we had been discussing racism and anti-racism in medicine, as well as how to recruit and support physicians from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. These discussions made me reflect on my own experiences with choosing a place to live and to work. Eventually my thoughts circled around to something that happened when I was very young.

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It’s fitting that I’m re-reading Anne of Green Gables right now because I’m having the kind of spring for which Anne would have strings of words and metaphors.

My day started with all of us and the dog in the car driving an unfamiliar road lined by a new-to-us mountain scape, slightly taller and pointier than our familiar friends. The sun reflected rainbows of buds and baby leaves off the hills. I was on my way to start my own half marathon since my usual Mother’s Day race had, of course, been cancelled in the name of physical distancing. Andy and the girls, who were still in their PJs, dropped me off in the parking lot at the far end of our local bike trail. I would see them next as I ran past our house a third of the way through the 13.1 miles. Continue Reading


We’re doing a family walk with the dog on Saturday, my first morning free after five days of doctoring in the COVID-19 era. I’m orbiting outside the family conversation, my hands balled inside my mittens. The sun burns out the remnants of my feelings. The only thing I connect with is a dead tree trunk, sculpted by wind and snow and rain and sun so that it has a new life as a thing of beauty. Continue Reading

Easiest Way Down

There must be a view on top of our local ski mountain but the three times I’ve been up there the signs screaming “EASIEST WAY DOWN” made me forget to take it in. I saw that landscape once from the lift by looking backwards, deep breathing to expel my fear of heights, and ignoring the drop to the icy slope below. Rounded brown hills up front bristled with bare trees, blue, jagged silhouettes loomed tall at the back and in the middle, layered between the valleys, purple slopes transformed the Berkshires into the Green Mountains. I was surprised to see that we were tucked within millions of years of living geology, because once on the top of the mountain I was tense, reactive, and unaware of my surroundings, focused only on how to make it to the bottom.
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