A Story Told is a Life Lived

My name is Virginia Alicea. I was born in Manhattan, NY, July 1947, from Puerto Rican parents.  I am 72 years old, and in this year of 2020 am living through a COVID-19 pandemic. In my entire life, I have never experienced so much grief and isolation as this virus has incurred. The photography class became my way of looking at myself through the lens of a camera during this pandemic. Looking at each photo made the clock stop for that moment and taught me how to successfully handle patience. I learned how to keep my head where my feet were at. The moment to me has been easier to live than a one day at a time philosophy and these photos reflect that.

I have lived alone for many years and have been happy and comfortable with my life. Suddenly, it began to change when the senior centers closed by order of the Department of Aging. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) set guidelines for the general public to protect them from a coronavirus they did not know themselves how to control. Whenever I left the safety of my home, I had to maintain a 6 foot distance from everyone, wear a mask to protect others, and frequently sanitize my hands. Visiting the supermarket became longer than usual.  Long lines while maintaining the distance from others and wearing a mask became the rules. I like cooking but the NYC COVID-19 Emergency Food Distribution would deliver 5-6 containers of frozen cooked food, a bag of bagels, blueberry muffins and fresh fruits to my door each week.

It is mandatory to wear a mask to ride MTA buses/trains.  All the front sections of the buses are closed to the public with chains and clear plastic to protect the driver. I stopped riding the trains but still ride the buses with fear because some people do not believe in wearing a mask for any reason. K-Mart at Bruckner Blvd and Story Ave, in the Bronx, had most of the shelves empty in the Health & Beauty Section. Boots, coats, and sweaters were still on the display racks. In past years the month of May would have had an abundance of bathing suits, sun dresses, flip flops, sandals, and sunscreen lotion ready for the Memorial Day weekend opening at the beaches and swimming pools.

Everyday going to the mailbox in my building has become a ritual of mask, gloves, and hat to stay within the CDC guidelines. Weekly I wash clothes, dust the furniture, sweep and mop the floors. I trim my hair every other week. For entertainment I do puzzles, bake bread, sew curtains, crochet, make plastic canvas projects, pick one or two movies to watch from my DVD collection, and play games installed in the cell/tablet. If my treadmill could talk, it would thank me for using it again. For the possibility of contracting coronavirus, I review the documents (revocable trust, durable power of attorney for health care, power of attorney, will) that might become effective if I am hospitalized or dead.

My son helped me install a video-call application. We have not visited for 4 months so we decided to have the COVID-19 and antibody tests; the results were negative for both. So, on June 4th he came for me to stay at his home in Connecticut for the weekend to take a break from the isolation. Being with my son and outside with all of God’s wonders was all the therapy I needed. I have not cherished a moment in the same way that this pandemic has taught me…staying in the moment as I live and breathe each blessed day.

The Serenity Prayer was a two-way project that kept me grounded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each word reminded me to stay in the moment, and the second was that another project was completed. Bronx NY, April 2020.

There were several picture-perfect days like this to relieve me from this pandemic; sunny and clear.  Bronx NY, April 2020.

The front sections of the MTA buses are closed to the public to protect the drivers from getting infected with COVID-19. Bronx NY, May 2020.

When returning home from the streets, one of the CDC guidelines is to wash your hands while singing Happy Birthday two times. Bronx NY, March 2020.

Another escape from the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic is to watch a movie or two from my DVD collection.

The needlework projects in plastic canvas has kept me busy for a part of each day. Bronx NY, March 2020.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo giving his daily update to New Yorkers of the coronavirus. Also, on the table are fresh produce seniors have been receiving since the pandemic began and senior centers closed. Bronx NY, March 2020.

In the early beginnings of the coronavirus pandemic, several times during the day an ambulance would be parked in front of my building or on any block surrounding the neighborhood. Bronx NY, March 2020.

To practice the CDC guidelines of physical distance, I would visit with family and friends by means of video calls. This has become the new norm for the COVID-19 pandemic era. Bronx NY, March 2020.

COVID-19 prevented the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade up 5th Avenue on Sunday, June 14th. Instead the 2020 National Puerto Rican Day Parade was seen on the Broadcast Channel 7 as a special celebration. Bronx NY, May 2020.

When the senior centers closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I set up an activities table with tools for plastic canvas projects, laptop, cell/tablet.  Here is where plastic canvas projects were completed, photos emailed for each weekly assignment for the photography class, and where I chatted with family and friends by video calls. Bronx NY, May 2020.

While walking in Central Park, NYC, in May 2009, I posed for this drawing leaving the artist to his imagination. My son drew this self portrait as one of the requirements to attend FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) college. September 1994, NYC.

After 4 months of isolation, my son took me to his home in Connecticut for some clean air, bright sun, and the best bacon and cheeseburger I ever ate. Bronx NY, June 2020.

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