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Submitted by Virginia Watts on Wed, 03/18/2020 - 12:33

When I was a kid, we used to run away from each other yelling "You've got cooties!" It was a fun game, and also  a cruel taunt, and a whispered slur "Oooo she's got cooties!" Nobody knew exactly what cooties were. I imagined them as some kind of creepy crawly. And it seems that the etymology is that they referred to lice. Then in 1948 a guy named William Schaper created the game. It was launched in 1949 and sold millions. It was still popular with my grandkids when they were little. Remember it? You were given a colorful plastic body shaped kind of like a beehive, and the object was to add arms and legs, head and proboscis, with numbers on the dice corresponding to the body parts. The first one to complete theirs was the winner. And then you really did have a cootie!  

Now we are running from cooties Original Cootie Box Coveragain. And we have a clear idea what this one looks like. Not so clear is how to avoid it entirely, or mitigate its damage, or protect against it. This time it's not a game. We could take the plastic toy apart and put it back together in all kinds of strange ways. And I'm sure laboratories all over the world are trying to do the same thing with this golf-ball-stuck-with-golf-tees microbe to see how they can disable it. Or how they can arm us against it. It will take time, that's the one thing we do know.

So we follow the best advice we can find, sort through the alarming and harrowing news, trying to find a foothold. Social distancing isn't something we are comfortable with, at least a good share of us are not. While I tend to be a bit of an introvert, having to stay in, stay home, has made me realize how much human contact I usually have and how much I crave. So I'm grateful for social media, the phone, and especially the US Postal Service just now. 

Washing our hands and finding ways to stay engaged but not engulfed with fear, eating well and getting outside for some fresh air, are not really that hard. Staying on some kind of schedule is important. A writer friend of mine advised, "Make your bed every morning if you are working from home. Get dressed. Don't stay in your pajamas!" and she is right. It helps to maintain some sense of normalcy, some sense of purpose. 

Just wanted to stay in touch with you out there, and say I am thinking about you as we navigate this new landscape. I'll get some ironing done, write some letters, or e-mail, probably watch too much television, read those books I've started, walk in my garden and photograph whatever takes my fancy. And I am going to try to keep my balance. Hope you will too. 

Maybe I'll see if I can find that Cootie game and ask Ken to play! 

[picture from Wikipedia article - original Cootie box cover]