Everything was suddenly domestic. With the arrival of the coronavirus and a stay-at-home order in effect, the important milestones of life in Cleveland became living-room affairs. Life, all of it, was lived in home offices and dens, on lawns and porches, in gardens and backyards.
Over three unusually balmy spring days, Cleveland Magazine caravaned around Northeast Ohio’s residential neighborhoods, collecting stories of how the lives of everyday Clevelanders had changed due to the coronavirus. We met them in their yards, on their porches, while mulching flowerbeds, or playing on the grass.
In Lakewood, the Gilliland kids, 14-year-old Turner and 11-year-old Porter, occupied their time by taking digital school lessons and playing Fortnite. But they not-so-secretly longed for everything to return to normal. “I miss seeing my friends at school,” said Turner.
In Little Italy, Shaleah Feinstein, a Cleveland Institute of Music violin student, played her final performance for her teachers through Zoom. She was heading to graduate school and wondered when orchestra performances would be possible again.
The Partridge family, in Chagrin Falls, called off their annual joint-birthday celebration. Instead, outside their century home, they held a socially distanced gathering for close family only. They sat on chairs on the driveway, six feet apart, while their extended family sang
“Happy Birthday” from their cars.
A few essential workers continued to work, but most people stayed inside. Like Denece Praeger, in Westlake, they sewed masks. Or like her husband, Chuck, they strayed out only as far as their lawns.
There were small joys, along with the worry. Pleasure was found in reconnecting with family or Zooming with friends. Like the Gillilands, who took to baking pineapple upside-down cakes, many Clevelanders took up new activities and hobbies. Lawns got greener, hedges were trimmed, flowers were planted. Dogs were walked with increasing frequency, even in the middle of the day.
This was a different life, surely, than the one before the virus. This was an uncertain life, a life sometimes tinged with tragedy, a life where victories were small and hard-won. But it was a life nonetheless.
And Clevelanders, as resolute a bunch as ever, were intent to get on enjoying it.