BARTLETT — Do you know everything you’ve done for the past 250 days during the COVID-19 pandemic? The Gilmore family does.
Cassie and Ray Gilmore of Intervale and their five children — Ella, 12; Evelyn, 10; RayRay, 9; Zelda, 4; and Isadora (Izzy), 2 — have shared life amid the coronavirus with their 1,700 friends on Facebook through a daily journal, highlighting the events of the day with photographs and often a video.
It started out as the “Lock Down Diary” and about midway through transitioned to the “COVID Chronicles.”
Last Friday marked 250 days since Gov. Chris Sununu issued a state of emergency order for New Hampshire. On March 13, schools across the Granite State announced they were going to remote learning as a safety precaution.
On March 14, Ray Gilmore started the Lock Down Diary.
“It Is Official — All SAU 9 schools will be closed from March 16 through March 27. Please see the SAU 9 website for additional information in the coming days."
Lock Down Diary — Day 0 — #HomeSchool2020
“The girls were excited, until Cassie and I informed them that we had already discussed the division of labor, between the two of us. I get science, math and history. Cassie gets reading, art, literature and writing. Their faces went blank ... when we informed them that this wasn't a vacation, and that we had made plans to home school them during this period; their hearts may have cracked, just a little.”
Gilmore, 43, a retired Army captain, served in Afghanistan in 2004 and kept a journal the entire time he was there.
“I kept a journal of everyone I talked to,” he said, adding, “I got the idea of a journal from (former Kennett High English teacher) Barbara Spofford, who had us keep one our senior year (in 1996). My journal from Afghanistan, I couldn’t read it for the first seven years I was home.
“Keeping a (COVID) journal, this will be something we can all look back on as a family,” Gilmore said. “This is a piece of living history, it’s what we’ve been living for the past 250 days. I tried to show how we felt, how we acted when we went through all this.”
April 17 — Lock Down Diary, Day 34
“The biweekly resupply mission, into the apocalypse (the grocery store) this morning was pretty uneventful. The shelves were stocked, maybe 10 others in the store, plus employees, 90 percent were wearing their masks correctly. Almost everyone was conscious of spacing. Lines have been marked on most floors, and most people were courteous and polite.
“For school, the younger kids started ‘Friday Flex Activities,’ which I think is great. It is supposed to ‘offer students activities in which they can play, explore something or connect with others, in a supervised remote platform.’ I know that our kids need this, and I am sure that others do as well.”
Ray and Cassie, 34, love being around family. Sundays before COVID would routinely mean about a dozen family members enjoying a meal and each other's company. Thanksgiving would see the number increase to 25-30 family members, with Ray making his “famous Turducken (turkey, duck and chicken combined).
“We’ve stayed in our little bubble for the most part,” Ray said. “We want to stay safe and want others to, too.”
He added: “Did I think this pandemic would still be going on after 250 days, yes. Did I think I’d still be documenting it? I’m not sure.”
Dinner time now contains roses, thorns and buds as topics of discussion.
“We got around the table and everyone will share what the best part of their day was — the rose,” Ray explained. “Then, we say what the thorn was, why poked us a bit. Finally, we talk about what we are looking forward to — the bud.”
The pandemic has made an already close-knit family even closer. Ray says that’s one of the COVID-linings of all this, a play on silver linings.
“We started a homestead,” Ray said. “We started a garden share by creating garden plots (on the family land). I thought we might get four or five. We got 53 requests and had to draw people out of a hat. We managed to stretch it to 20 (garden) beds. That became a COVID silver lining.”
He added: “We were able to a whole lot more projects around the house, even painting the house. I ran for (state representative) in a pandemic. We’ve home-schooled our kids, that’s been our life.”
As for the most difficult thing during the coronavirus, the family shared their thoughts.
Cassie — “Not being with family. I miss my mom.”
Ella — “Either the social part or being stuck at home. It is difficult to not be able to go anywhere. I also miss (friend) Asha and my teachers."
Evelyn — “Social pieces like friends and grandparents. Sports, dance and stuff."
RayRay — "It’s not being able to see my best friend Addy."
Ray — “For me, it is watching them go through this. When I was locked down for months at a time, for years on end, it was my choice and profession, as a soldier. I was used to missing holidays and birthdays; and I had learned to minimize their meaning as an EMT and then in the Army.
"But a hard part for me, returning to the civilian world, was making the adjustment to enjoying those holidays and events again. I fear a world that shuts down those emotions to adjust to the isolation. It is one thing for the individuals to do it — it is a whole different problem if a population does it.”
Nov. 4 — COVID Chronicles, Day 235
“The kids were ecstatic to learn that Gov. Sununu won (the election) when they woke up. ... and that made me happy because they have become invested in the process through my participation. Their first-hand education was one of the greatest gifts of this campaign process.
“I left as soon as the coffee was ready, and spent the day cleaning up signs across Bartlett and Jackson. I bumped into (his Democratic opponent) Anita Lang Burroughs, who asked me to join her ‘Kitchen Cabinet,’ to advise her on future policies, and of course I said yes.
“The point of an election is not to divide a populace, it is to select our representatives. I set out to ensure that all voices are heard, and Anita has welcomed that message; together we will endeavor to work for our community.
“As I sat in Patch's parking lot, eating my lunch, I received a call from Gov. Chris Sununu; he congratulated me on a hard-fought race, commenting that he lost very few districts, mine being one, and we shared a laugh.
“The kids crushed out their school work today and made up for yesterday, where they worked the polls with me. Cassie taught them before working with the Jackson Grammar School after-school program.
“The Little2, they were master mess makers, like usual.
“A nice glass of sake with a bowl of hot soup closed out my first election cycle, with a smile and a sense of accomplishment. ... I will sleep well tonight, knowing that in the act of trying, other doors have opened, because I chose to step back into the arena.”
Despite COVID, there have been some highlights.
Cassie — "Spending time with my family that I would have never had. I know their education more, I know them more. Before COVID, we were so active that we lost a lot of time running from event to event — and we are getting a lot of things done around the house. COVID directed me back into education.”
Ella — “Getting to know my family better. It's been really nice to not have to rush off to sports or other activities.”
Ella read 31,869 pages this summer — 84 books over 81 days, averaging 384 pages a day.
Evelyn — "Family time and reading. Stacking wood does not count. And time for arts and crafts."
RayRay — "I've gotten to spend more time with the family and do a lot more things. A lot more swimming, more time with Grammy and Grampy. But, I really miss the ability to see my friends, and I want to hang out again."
Ray — “For all of us, it appears that we have enjoyed the extra time together as a family unit. Having a household this large means that we are a walking-talking mass infection event by ourselves, and we have chosen to stay out of school partially because of that, and avoid events that we may have participated in if we had a smaller family.
"The increased isolation is a result of the decision to have a large family. But, by having a large family, we have insulated ourselves from the isolation that many are experienced.”
He added: “As my friend Bill Tickner pointed out early in the COVID pandemic — our family and our lifestyle choices have set us up for success in these historic times.”