The New York Times

The New York Times 22 Apr 2020

'This Is Crazy': Inside a N.Y.C. Apartment During Coronavirus

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Tanya Denise Fields documented what her life has been like while under quarantine during the coronavirus outbreak. She lives in a three-bedroom apartment in the Bronx and has to care for a family of eight.


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… show captions ↓
How many days have I been at home.
I have been at home about 18 days.
That’s been hard.
We’ve been getting on each other’s nerves.
My name is Tanya
Denise Fields.
I’m 39 years old and I live in the South Bronx.
I am the mom of six: Taylor, Lola, Hunter, Trist’Ann,
Thomas, Chase. And then there is my partner, Mustaphai.
A three-bedroom is not a ton of space
for an eight-person family.
“Come on, let’s go. Come on, let’s get up.”
Everybody is sharing a room.
And so we’ve been on. ...
About three days ago,
I started to feel really sick. Bodyaches. Headaches. Chills.
I was not actually tested and I've
been trying to get tested for days now.
Since I started feeling bad, it’s
kind of been a free-for-all in here.
“Out, out.”
People snapping at each other, and the kids are
cussing at each other and using bad language
and slamming doors and everybody’s
got, like, a really intense cabin fever.
“Why are you all so loud?”
“Why are you so loud?”
Yeah, my brother cries a lot and he always comes to me,
so that’s pretty annoying to have
to do 24/7.
Trying my best to have some alone time,
but it is loud.
There are lots of little fights
that break out during the day.
If I stayed here all sophomore year,
I would probably lose my mind.
This is hard for them.
This is, as hard as it is for us as adults,
it’s even harder for them.
You know, these are school- age children who, you know,
function on certain routines.
And this is scary.
What do you know about the coronavirus?
If you go outside, you’ll get sick.
I know you could die from it.
My 4-year-old has started since he’s —
we’ve been sheltering in place —
he started wetting the bed again.
“But we’re so excited to do this because at least we
can see you guys.”
“Right? Are you
happy to see your teachers?”
We do go to school, they go to Google Classroom.
I stay on top of them to get in what they can get in,
but I don’t have expectations that I’m
going to be, all of a sudden, the perfect little
home-schooling mom.
That’s unrealistic.
“OK, OK. Are there any worms in that soil?”
“No.”
“Here we go.
All right, let’s take this off.
And we’re going to see the root system of the
blueberry bush.
OK?”
“Yeah.”
“The blueberry bush, the blueberry bush.”
“Here. Right here. It stinks?
Fertilizer rarely smells good.
Here baby. Right there.”
“It looks like, dry, It looks like wet poop.”
“It is kind of wet poop.”
“Oh wow.
OK. I mean, just balls to the wall.
All right.”
“I put a lot.”
“You did put a lot.
Thank you.”
I put a lot of pressure on my kids
to be high achievers. If they’re not,
I know people are going to look at me
and be, like, “Well, you know, I mean, this is a lady who
had no husband and six kids and, you
know, I mean, what did you think was going to happen?
She’s a walking statistic.”
“I like to, like, make beats and I, like, remix them.”
And so in the last two and a half, going on three weeks,
they’ve just gotten to be, they just, they’ve just
gotten to be funny, they’ve gotten to be artistic,
and they’ve gotten to be smart, and they’ve
gotten to just exist.
“Let me hear it one more time.”
Right now the only thing I can do for my kids
is to just be present and to try
to take this one day at a time and to give them
as much stability and feelings of comfort and safety
that I possibly can.
I don’t know anything else to do beyond that.
And I’m OK with that for right now.

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