Quarantine Panic Baking! 2: Cake

My dad answered FaceTime wearing an old firefighter’s helmet complete with face shield. “Everything’s going great here!” he said. “Quarantined with my dream girl!”

He and my mom haven’t left their house since Friday the 13th. When things rapidly headed south that day, my ever-cautious and germ-fearing father decided to go to our favorite Indian lunch buffet, where he was the only customer. For my dad, only Indian buffet food is impervious to germs.

I asked how they were feeling and he said, “Mom said I coughed the other day but I didn’t.”

My dad loves routine and hates change. He’s gone to the same barber every six weeks for over thirty years and eats lunch at the same places every week, so he is really thrown off his game.

“I don’t want my hair to get so long that people call me Maestro,” he said.

My sister and I have been trading off delivering treats to keep their spirits up—my sister volunteered to bring ice cream from her next sojourn to the grocery store. My dad said, “Don’t spend too long in the ice cream aisle! Just grab everything.”

When I drop off cakes and cookies, my dad likes to appear at the garage door and pretend to claw at it, yell “Let me out!” a few times, then he grins and tells me a few facts that I don’t understand about the stock market.

My mom is a nurse and thus a certified expert at handling a crisis. This barely fazes her.

She’s been texting us quarantine haikus every day we’ve been locked down.

The only thing that rattled her is when the library closed, but she was grateful that she had just checked out several books that could last for the duration.

“I bet they’re mostly Stephen Hawking. Too scary for me,” said A.

“. . . Do you mean Stephen King?”

My mom always appears at the garage door to offer me spare supplies that she’s left on the same folding table where I leave my baked goods. Sometimes she’ll leave something that she’s dug up while cleaning out closets that I have to take, like a school project from the sixth grade or a sweater from the ‘80s that she forgot she still had because all those pastel triangle patterns blend like camouflage in the back of a drawer.

One day it was a rainbow colored sombrero. It’s like our own little dystopian barter system with a side of guilt.

“I’ve got an idea that will cheer us up!” she said. “Let’s all watch Chernobyl!”

The other day I brought them some new cake recipes that I’ve been testing out: lemon pistachio, swirled sesame, and French yogurt.

My mom appeared at the garage door to breathlessly announce that she only has thirteen days to finish every episode of Homeland because the channel it’s on is only free for a limited time and she doesn’t want to pay for it, even during quarantine.

“What season are you on?”

“Three.”

“How many seasons are there?”

“Eight! It’s really stressful but I have to keep watching!”

She’s also been keeping busy by tracking the International Space Station and musing on what it must be like to follow the pandemic from the one place off Earth safe from the virus.

“Maybe the people in the space station will have to re-populate the Earth,” she said.

“I don’t think we’re there yet, Mom.”

“There’s a Twilight Zone episode about that,” she said, and my dad added, “There are a lot of Twilight Zones about that.”

My mom also gave me some gourmet hand sanitizer that she bought online. It’s almost entirely rubbing alcohol, and I know this for sure because I accidentally sprayed myself in the face with it. So everything is going just fine.

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