The Year of the General

portrait of smiling white man and woman
White man with embellishments like a Hello Kitty barrette in his beard
Man and his two daughters smiling and holding hands on windy mountain

When our quarantine began on March 16, 2020, my husband, Jeff, decided to stop trimming his beard. He thought growing it out would be a fun activity that could be conducted outside of his "professional" office environment.

Little did he know that soon, a proliferation of Zoom meetings would still allow for plenty of collegial ribbing. He also considered the beard project to be a way to mark the passage of time and tangibly measure the length of our stay at home. After a month, when his hair started getting shaggy, he decided to forego haircuts as well. By summertime, we began comparing his new look to the styles of various Civil War-era generals. One day he'd look more like James B. McPherson and another A.P. Hill. Finally, we settled on calling his beard "THE General" since we could never decide WHICH general Jeff most resembled. For our two young daughters, The General was ripe for embellishment. Jeff good-naturedly allowed them to add clips and bows until they deemed the beard properly styled. My mother-in-law, who has made hundreds of cloth face coverings to donate to frontline workers and nursing home residents, fashioned extra-large masks for Jeff, so that The General could fit safely inside.

Fall came, and the longer we quarantined, the more we realized how fortunate we had been to have steady jobs throughout the pandemic that could be done almost exclusively from home. This allowed us to continue with virtual schooling for our older daughter and home care for our preschooler. Jeff's ever-shaggier presentation provided a daily reminder of our privilege.

As this pandemic won't have a clear end date, we don't know how much longer The General will be with us. Perhaps he will go when we receive our vaccines or when Jeff returns to the office. Whether or not his days are numbered, he will definitely be remembered as a key player in our family's quarantine experience.