Shirley Jensen Hanley


Textiles, fashion merchandising and design

The pandemic shutdown started right around my birthday in mid-March. I was OK with not being able to go out to dinner. I told my husband not to shop for gifts, but he did. (Fear over gifts. This is really serious stuff.) I was cleaning my house that first week, even on my birthday, as it seemed like a good idea.


The last few weeks of March I sewed masks. I gave the first 40 to family, friends, and even a few strangers. The next 140 were donated to medical people in Syracuse, NY.

The next week I pulled out that unopened 1,000-piece Charles Wysocki puzzle. It took me a week; my son and my husband didn’t want to help. (My husband was ready to help with masks when I finally said no more).  I was finishing up the puzzle when the reports were saying how grim things would be the next week or two in NYC. I believed it, but how sad for the whole world to have watched this. Thank God for all the essential workers.

I’ve been retired for almost 10 years, so my life isn’t so different. I just can’t meet with clubs, go to lunch, shop, visit my siblings, etc. I was in my doctor’s office on February 10 and she told me that one of her brothers works for the WHO. After she told me how bad it might get, I was scared. I told my husband and my siblings. We live in a fairly quiet area along Lake Ontario in upstate NY. My son, who is in grad school in NYC came home on March 12. Within a week, all of New York state was shut down. We were safe. Then my sister-in-law, who manages a motel, got the virus. She had asked her manager to close the week before. After she tested positive, he closed on April 6 for a month. This is a big fishing area and some fishermen came upstate and spread the virus around. Nice, huh? She wasn’t “bad” enough to be hospitalized—whatever that is. At 9 a.m. on Friday, April 17, my niece called. I answered saying, “Oh no, Dani, your Mom.” She said, “No, Aunt Shirley, worse, it’s my Dad.” Worse because it is my brother. My sister in law tested negative the afternoon before. Obviously he didn’t share the news with his four older siblings that he had this. I am okay with that, as I know he didn’t want us to worry. My siblings and I would text to see how things were and he would say okay. He was 56 years old. Such a waste. 

I spent the next two weeks grieving and being angry inside. I did a lot of Zentangle.  That always relaxes me.  The other day I pulled out a tavern sign I have been meaning to paint. I worked on it a little. The weekend was nice, so I was in the yard. My husband is replacing the picket fence after 30 years. The three of us are not bored and my dog is glad to have all of us at home. I’ve even tried new recipes. Tonight I had my third Zoom board meeting. One more to go. Personally, it beats sitting in a meeting room for 3 days. It is cold again, so I think I will paint tomorrow. I have leather and fabric to sew and rug hooking and penny rugs, etc. And many more painting projects. It never ends. And books of course, but I only let myself read at night, otherwise I wouldn’t do anything else. 

I do give Governor Cuomo my attention every morning. Just getting the facts.

The thing I miss—people. Who knew? I especially miss seeing my siblings. I have not seen any of them  since March 10. That is a long time. No funeral for my “little” brother. There will be a celebration of life when safe—maybe next year.

There are a couple of silver linings: I like having my husband and my son around all the time. And all those extra commitments I enjoy, sometimes it is nice to skip them. I am comfortable in my jeans or PJs, but I had already figured out which outfits I was wearing to various lunches this spring. All  cancelled and it has saved me a ton of money, but I do miss the people I would have seen. I do hope that they are all safe.

When this is over I see more people working from home. Look how the smog has lifted and the traffic has lessened. I hope hand shaking is over with. Being that I am a female of a certain age,  I was well into my 30s when people started offering me their hands. I don’t know if they wash properly, so let us hope that is gone & we bump elbows. Kind of like we used to do the Bump when I was at URI. My roomie, Alice, used to say that someday our kids wouldn’t believe that we bumped bottoms in college in the Ram’s Den. I’ve never told my son. I think people will be more compassionate. I certainly hope so. Like they were after 911, especially in NYC for several years after that tragic day.

I am a retired teacher. Thank goodness the teacher’s unions have finally got some experience with this online schooling. Turns out teachers are more valuable than anyone thought. Also, my son is doing 4 online classes. He is not happy with it, says he needs to be in a classroom. And my husband has given work to his high school driver’s ed. students, but most of them are blowing it off.  They are supposed to finish the driving this summer or fall. The kids probably figure it won’t happen. I don’t want my husband in a driver’s ed. car, as he won’t be able to social distance. He wants me to make 22 masks for his students. I am sure I will, but don’t they own a bandana? I’ll give them coffee filters to put inside their makeshift facial coverings. After this semester ends, so will driver’s ed. for many years as, unfortunately there won’t be any money left in the state budgets for the life skills classes. I feel bad for the students, but I will be glad to have my husband retire for real. He  retired in 2003. The driver’s ed. is his part-time job.

So now my two biggest concerns are keeping the rest of my family heathy and getting the rest of my son’s possessions out of NYC when it is safe to return. I said, “You really need that stuff?” It is mostly clothes and some books.  We’ll see.