A 14-y-o writes memoir about his COVID-19 experience

PROUD mom Nardialee Massey shares with COVID CAPERS the rather interesting perspective of her 14-year-old son, Mark Tulloch who wrote a memoir on his COVID-19 experience as a youngster for his English language assignment.

“When I read it, it made me realise that as adults we have our own experiences and so do our children. I relived moments not giving any thought or the time of day previously, through the eyes of my son,” said Nardialee.

Mark, a former student of Campion College and a current student of Cambria Heights Academy in New York, titled his assignment A 14-year-old’s memoir of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are edited excerpts from his work:

It is now Thursday, March 12, 2021. It had been a regular school day.

Everything was fine; nothing felt out of place… My teacher had in his earphones and seemed much focused on what he was listening to… Five minutes before class ended he started to rant about the Government and some other stuff; my entire class was confused. Then he told us the first case of COVID-19 had reached the island.

Everyone was worried and anxious. I will admit I was a little scared. People started putting on makeshift masks like handkerchiefs. Our teacher used the class period to address our concerns and reassure us that everything was going to be alright.

I went back to school the next day. A good amount of the school’s population was wearing masks, even though our Government had not yet given a mask mandate. My friend Myles was selling masks in class so I told myself it wouldn’t hurt to buy one, plus I would be fitting in. We got let out from school an hour early. An hour before this I had read an Instagram post that our prime minister stated that all schools should be closed, which I thought probably was fake. To my surprise, however, it was true.

Our parents had no idea this would happen so most of them couldn’t change their schedules to pick us up. So, we had a long wait. I spent an endless amount of time playing basketball with my friends. About 4:00 pm my friends started to leave one by one. I thought nothing of it; I gave them no last goodbyes. I thought I would see them next week, but that was not to be.

I thought I was free and everything was fine. My country, however, did not think the same way. We were going to be in a state of lockdown for two weeks. The news that weekend was filled with instances of long lines at stores to buy groceries and other stuff for the lockdown. My family didn’t have to go through that as we kept a lot of canned goods in case of an emergency.

At the start of the lockdown I was thinking to myself “It’s an early spring break.” Not thinking about the crash of the economy that had started the loss of jobs and loss of pay, all I thought about was “no school”.

Couple days later my mother who was at work called me to say that school would resume on Monday. But it was not school as I had known it. It was online school! I was shocked and wondering how this was possible. A few friends were thinking alike, but the rest of my classmates must have known about the big bad Zoom which, in my mind, was an app for business people to have remote conference calls, not for a kid like me to suffer. The entire 8th grade – all 200 of us – was on one meeting. I felt awkward. I saw people’s names I had never seen before and I also saw friends from other classes.

For the first couple of classes I tried to pay attention but by midday my laptop was unattended, but tuned into the meet while I was watching TV. Mere weeks later came the topic on the news and every social media platform that “children were not learning in online school”. In my defence, the online classes were not engaging – the teachers didn’t seem to have the information in their heads as they used to, and they just read off the slides they were presenting.

It was very difficult to pay attention; there were too many distractions to resist at home. Many of our parents had slowly started to go back to work half-days or half of the week, while following the new protocol of “Masks! Masks! Masks!” followed by “hand sanitiser” and “social distancing”.

This left most of us kids home alone and unattended, causing us to give in to the many distractions. Some of us had younger siblings and as such had to take responsibility by the reins, also distracting them. I could agree with the public and social media, most of us were not learning, we were just putting the info we saw on PowerPoint presentations right back into online quizzes – a case of copy and paste.

A couple months later, things started to normalise in a sense, everyone wore masks when they went outside. They stashed their masks everywhere in various places around the home, in the car, in the pockets of their pants, bags and purses – basically everywhere. People went about business as usual, just following the new protocols.

I spent my weekdays, from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, by myself, just me and the appliances in my home. I had friends to call but it didn’t feel the same. I would hook the call up to my Alexa to make it feel like they were in the room, but they weren’t. Every day I would long for my mother to come home. Confined in the multiple walls of my house, I ask myself now “How did I live through this? How did I survive?” The only physical human interactions I had was with my mom. I wondered how did I not go insane!

Mid-pandemic we no longer got one positive coronavirus case every other day; we were now getting 30 cases a day. People blamed the Government for not handling the situation well when the Government was doing its best. I continued to watch the news about the long lines at banks; people to get government aid money and so on.

I realise that I didn’t have it rough. I’m still alive today. Some people were dying, some died, some were suffering because of loss of jobs and money problems while I spent my time inside eating, watching TV, sometimes neglecting online classes along with my friends who believed they could ace any test without paying attention. I complained about being trapped indoors while other people were suffering their worst fate.

It’s now the present day. I am with my dad and mom and am attending a new school, as in physical school. I am writing this as an assignment that Mr Wallace (my English language teacher) assigned us for the end of the cycle. I’m not sure if I will finish this or if this work will ever be seen by the public’s eye as COVID-19 is still going on.

However, this wraps up my experience of COVID-19 – from the happy times before to the start of the global health crisis. From online school, then normalisation to, well, today…I’m sure everything is going to be alright for me. “This is Mark for Thursday, April 8, 2021, 10:33 am; signing off, well for now, depending on if I continue this.

Share your COVID-19 experience and help others to take the virus seriously. Send to allend@jamaicaobserver.com or riffraph54@gmail.com.


Celebrity COVID cases

Gloria Maragh: I read your piece on the foreign celebrities who contracted the coronavirus. I loved the article, and of course the juxtaposition of the pix. I can’t recall hearing that Madonna and Prince William had COVID. Glad I saw the items in your piece.
Johnathan Jameson: Maybe out of bad can come good. When people see that international celebrities can get the virus, they will take it more seriously and get the vaccine too. I hope they don’t listen to the dishonest types who spread their ignorance as if they enjoy seeing millions of people dying.

I dodged a COVID bullet

Michael Duberson: Fortunately, these kinds of people recovered but with all the false positives with the PCR test, how can they be sure it was COVID-19 and not just the flu or pneumonia like people used to get?

TENC: Embarrassed is probably the wrong word to use. I would say fearful of being classed as some sort of plague carrier and fear of being infected. This is the fault of the media, politicians and public health officials who have talked up a typical flu-like virus with a survival rate of 99.7% into being a deadly plague to which no one is immune.

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