By Caitlin Kelly

Like some others I know, this recent New York Times story, about people toughing out their pandemic in their second home, left me annoyed with its timing…with millions of other scared and broke Americans now facing eviction.

As they say — read the room!

Yes, I know there are rich people!

I know many of them read the Times.

But really?

While living full-time in places that usually get much less wear and tear, these homeowners share many of the same difficulties as anyone dealing with the coronavirus lockdown — working in communal spaces where their children now are present 24-7, discovering items in their homes that need updating, and then renovating a home while they are living in it. In addition, these homeowners must adjust to living in relatively unfamiliar towns, often far from friends, family, or creature comforts like a favorite bagel shop or longtime barber.

People assumed this must be a parody.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how much we can — and now must — forego.

Any form of amusement in a shared interior space? Gone!

Worshiping en masse indoors or not socially distanced outdoors? Gone!

Haircut and color? Gone, still, for many.

Massages, tattoos, other forms of out-sourced grooming? Gone!

Libraries? Gone! A few have gone to interesting lengths, from curbside delivery in brown paper shopping bags to home delivery by drone.

Oh, and travel? Forget it. In-state only, and even then only if you live in a state (only 16 left now in the U.S.) not devastated by huge numbers of COVID cases. New York lost more than 20,000 people to this virus, but thanks to millions of others who dismissed all those morgue trucks as a fantasy — we’re all now shut inside the borders of a nation in economic ruin. Awesome!

So it’s been a powerful lesson, beyond food and shelter, in what we once might have considered necessities — and know now for sure are luxuries.




A while back, I gave some insider advice about writing a book to an MD I follow on Twitter, something I normally charge for. I didn’t. A bit later, he dropped a really nice gift into my PayPal account and I splurged for these!


A few luxuries I appreciate have remained possible: fresh flowers (now often from our small balcony garden), perfume and some new clothes and sandals, ordered by mail and a few bought in-store, and a quick four-day trip upstate to visit a friend and two nights’ hotel.




I treated myself to a subscription, in print, (which I keep for years!) this magazine that’s hard to find here, and am in heaven swooning over 16th century cottages and gorgeous gardens, a happy substitute until, someday, I can get back there.

All of it wonderful.

For parents, certainly of multiple small children, not being able to rely on out-of-home childcare or schooling is a huge stressor with no calm, competent leadership anywhere on this in sight. STILL.

How absurd that education and childcare — both absolute necessities for a functioning economy while also safeguarding health — have suddenly become luxuries, with the most privileged snapping up teachers to teach locally-formed pods.

We’ve been very lucky to have steady work, bizarre in a time of such privation, but very aware of how lucky we are, especially as two full-time freelancers.

We’re very lucky to have savings.

And, for now, our health.

These are the necessities.


Everything else is now a luxury.


11 thoughts on “Luxuries/Necessities

  1. My state, especially my county, has been especially hard-hit. There’s been a lot of talk about shutting down restaurants and barbershops/tattoo parlors/etc. again, even though every one of those have been going to great lengths to do keep workers and patrons safe. The local library system has already scaled back from limited services in some of their busier branches to curbside delivery again. And now it takes four days to check books and other materials in.
    And I cannot begin to tell you all the things I’ve heard from friends who are teachers or who have children in the public school system. It’s a scary time to be in education, student or teacher or parent.

  2. Jan Jasper

    Caitlin, I agree that this squirm-inducing New York Times article could, at first glance, have been mistaken for a parody. I was also struck with the story of the busy career woman whose special needs child had his dinner prepared by the help (of course she didn’t use that term) while she ate dinner in restaurants several nights a week. Perhaps her business required frequent client dinners, but still it seemed kind of sad, regardless of how many homes they have, the little time that child got to spend with his mother.

  3. you are so spot on with this, caitlin. it is a challenging time to be a teacher, for many reasons, and i worry about school and children and families on a variety of levels. that being said, i am happy to have a job, and one that i love, and know that many are suffering greatly at this time, and tmy. having a job is a luxury in itself.


    What I can’t get out of my head is a story on the news last night …. it showed a woman at the door of her former home with all of her belongings on the lawn. Caitlin, I agree that while absolutely horrible on so many levels, it may have taken a pandemic to get him out of the WH. God help us if we don’t. I’m seriously worried about the postal service, among other things.

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