The Importance of #stayhome is HOME, always with a hammock. – Dr. Plastic Picker

The Importance of #stayhome is HOME, always with a hammock.

| Posted in COVID-19

Eucalyptus wood, non native to Peru.

April 16, 2020


Twenty-five years ago this month, I was seventeen and would lie on a hammock in our back yard that overlooked the winding road that led to our mailbox. My father always complained about that road because it was asphalt and technically private, so all the neighbors had to agree and contribute money anytime the road needed repairs. It’s a windy road that is shaded by a canopy of non-native eucalyptus trees. I remember seeing those same trees in Austalia with koalas. I saw these same trees in Peru last year up high in the Andes during a medical mission trip. They are non-native to Peru, encouraged by the government in the 1970s as a fast growing cheap source of fuel-wood. Those trees have contributed to the disruption of the water cycle there. In Australia and Peru, I oddly felt at home because I knew those trees despite their invasive nature.

Twenty-five years ago the teenage me was laying on the backyard hammock with one foot slowly pushing off to power the rhythmic motions. I would just quietly watch the windy road below . I loved hammocks as a child. As a mother, a few years ago I had this moment of determination and marched to Home Depot with my skeptcal non-hammock- loving husband. That weekend, I taught my half-grown children how to correctly use one. Seeing them try to sit and subsequently fall onto the ground, dazed and laughing as the hammock continually flipped over was wonderful. Laying correctly on a hammock is an artform that I mastered as a child. When you lay on a hammock you have to move with it, and somewhat let go of control which is difficult for uptight people.

So laying on that hammock, swinging back and forth on that dry spring day (I believe we were in another drought year) 25 years ago, I watched the winding road and waited for the white mail truck to come. Back then only a handful of my friends had email. One boy now works on Artificial Intelligence, and another classmate who tried to microwave a cat is an ER physician married to a psychiatrist. So there was really no meaninful email back then. As a senior awaiting to hear which college I was going to be accepted to, you waited for the mailman to bring either a small or big envelope. So I waited for the white mail truck every afternoon at about 2pm, as it would drive carefully up our bumpy winding asphalt road.

A letter eventually came, and that lead to a cascade of events that took me to a different corner of the country. I graduated college, medical school, married, had children, finished residency and went through two home purchases. A one bedroom one bath condo built in 1905 in the middle of Cambridge, and another three bedroom two bath high-rise downtown condo with a condo fee of $1000 which my father had advised against.

When I had a premature baby, and was facing decisions about how to best form a life for our two little children – Mr. Plastic Picker and I gave up our Boston plans, and we headed home. We are the 8th largest city in the US, and 2nd largest city in California. Yet in many ways we still feel like a small town. Before the COVID-19 quarantine, I would run into friends and patients and family every day and every where – in those unexpected and wonderful moments. The Costco gas station, Legoland. At Hawaian BBQ place near our clinic.

Twenty-five years later I am back where I started. We live in a different neighborhood. Rather than the windy country road banked by eucalyptus trees, we live closer to the beach with a breeze. We have aritifical grass. We have lived in Chula Vista, Mission Valley, Kensington and finally settled about 5 years ago in our forever home near the beach. We are waiting out COVID-19 here. I go to work still and see my patients and think about the environment. What the post-COVID 19 world will be like, I don’t think anyone knows. If someone tells you they know, they are full of doo doo and hot air.

But I wanted to let you know that I am so glad to have come home. I love this community and this city with all my heart. When I returned after 15 years away with two children in tow, a set of non-English speaking in-laws, and a husband who grew up in New Jersey – it was a big move. We had been used to life back east. But within a month, we realized we had sunk our roots so deep into the soil of this community and were connected and loved more here than the 15 years we had lived in Boston. Family, friends, school, church, work – our family was thriving here. We will ride out this thing that has happened to the world – together. I’ll go back to the beach when I can later, and start picking up plastic. So many people have let me know that they will be there too. Our beaches will have been long neglected. I am so grateful for all the San Diegans who have managed this pandemic well. The mayor, our HMO leadership and each community member. I think it is because we realize home is worth saving and many of us either grew up here, or have embraced this community because we welcomed you with open hearts. We San Diegans #stayhome because of the home part.

Our home now also has the same hammock I bought at Home Depot a few years ago. My in-laws keep on putting it away to protect it from the elements. But every time I am home, which is more often now, I bring it out and attach it to it’s frame. I set up the patio umbrella that my mother handed down to me. And I gingerly organize myself on the hammock, and I lay down. I rock myself back and forth. I look up in the sky now and my neighbor’s palm tree. And I am waiting just like before. And when I am done with the hammock, I call out to my children and tell them they need to get outside a bit and that I put the hammock out for them.

View from our hammock.

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