With the arrival of COVID-19 in St. Louis County, Ebony E.’s opportunities as a professional actor evaporated, along with her part-time childcare position at a community center. In many ways, though, she considers herself lucky. She celebrated her 30th birthday during the shutdown, as well as the birthdays of her four daughters—six-year-old triplets and a four-yearold.
Last year at this time, Ebony was homeless. For six months, she stayed with friends, some of whom had never had children. She recalls, “There were a couple of times I had to say, ‘My kids wrote on your wall. I’m so sorry.’” Now, she is renting a house in Ferguson she shares with her boyfriend.
Last days of school and work
After the triplets’ birthday party in March, everyone in the house got the flu. The kids were out of their kindergarten classrooms for an entire week. The day her kids returned, the school announced closures due to coronavirus. A couple of days later was Ebony’s last day of work. She is receiving unemployment and food assistance.
Ebony had already planned on homeschooling her children in the fall and was collecting books. With the extra time, she is getting a jumpstart. The teachers have been very helpful, including one who visited her home with materials. “Each of them had a different teacher,” she says of her daughters. “One of them had three therapists on top of that. I’ve been communicating, almost every day, with seven different people.”
Ebony’s triplets were born early at 25 weeks with a weakened immune system. She stayed with them in the NICU for four months where sanitizing was critical. She says, “We have always kept that–putting on Germ-X and making sure everything was clean.” She was well-stocked in sanitizer when the stay-at-home order went into effect, and she was able to drop off some to friends in need.
Ebony is also an extreme couponer. She usually has a basement full of supplies, but she’s eased up on restocking. She says, “I feel it’s kind of selfish to go into the store to get so much of one thing right now.” She is always searching for online deals and says she now has enough toilet paper to last through July.
When it comes to keeping the children occupied, she says, “Pinterest is my best friend.” In early May, she and her daughters planted a garden with flowers, lavender, tomatoes, green peppers, carrots, and green beans. Her youngest kept wanting to dig more holes, so she says, “I had to find more stuff to plant.”
Ebony found websites to help explain the coronavirus to children. Her kids understand it’s a virus and about social distancing, she says, “But they don’t understand why they can’t go into a store or why they can’t go to the park.”
The stress of a pandemic
Ebony suffers from anxiety and depression, though she is surprised her depression has not been bad during the crisis. She thinks it’s because there is no pressure for her to be anywhere at a certain place and time. “I’m not reporting back and forth to a job, not having to drop my kids off at school, and physically going to different meetings,” she says.
Her anxiety, however, has skyrocketed. She had always loved shopping, but now it takes her hours to decide to go. “I can’t go into large stores with a lot of people. I go to small stores like Aldis,” she says, “I have to know your store is regulating who’s going inside it.”
If they do go out, she says, “We immediately come home, disinfect anything brought in from anywhere, put our clothes in the washing machine, and take a shower. We’ve been having the kids do that as well. It’s just the normal now.”
She believes she’ll feel unsafe for a while, at least until there’s a vaccine, cases go down, and all 50 states open back up. “I don’t think I will be at any pools or amusement parks this summer,” she says, but the kids will be able to enjoy the swing set and small pool in the backyard.
While Ebony does watch the local news for COVID updates, she found the live broadcasts put her in a bad mood afterward. She is also using Facebook less. At this point, she just wants to know what is open or closed.
Being more positive
“Right now,” Ebony says, “I’m trying to be more positive, more helpful—reaching out to people.” She appreciates the time to get to know her kids better and create memories. “They’re not going to see coronavirus the way we did,” she says.