Shelley Stockton, mother of two children (a 7-year-old son and a daughter who’s almost 5) and wife to Brantley Stockton, remembers the moment when the COVID-19 pandemic became a stark reality for her family.
Back in March, Stockton and her husband, who live in SouthPark, had plans to celebrate their anniversary. Originally, they’d planned to go to dinner at Bistro la Bon and attend a class at Pottery Central. Once the pandemic started to trickle into households around the world, the couple first worried that they wouldn’t be able to get a babysitter. Then, they began to wonder whether they’d even feel comfortable leaving their children with someone.
Then, “everything just shut down,” Stockton said.
Soon afterward, her son, who’s in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system, was home, and her daughter’s preschool was closed. Stockton began to have regular calls with her son’s teacher, but there was no definitive date on when the kids would go back.
“I didn’t even remember when school ended. You lose a sense of all normalcy,” she said. “I remember saying to my husband that we needed to have some kind of system because this is ‘summer No. 2,’ and even though I do stay home with the kids, I’m kind of going crazy. I’m going to need some sort of break at some point during the week other than the weekend.”
Stockton, 39, has an autoimmune disease called ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation in the large intestine. While some decided to venture out after the stay-at-home order was lifted, Stockton chose to stay home for her own safety.
“From what is known about COVID-19 and what I’ve learned from my doctors, COVID can attach anywhere in your body, and the main thing it does is cause inflammation,” Stockton said. “Having an autoimmune disease that already causes inflammation, it’s terrifying to think about.”
“It was like being paralyzed. We just didn’t feel safe. There were so many unknowns at that point. Because of my condition, it’s better to be safe than sorry. It was a very easy decision. We were just like, ‘This is where we are, we’re not going anywhere,’” she said.
Ordinary tasks became a danger
“I’ve been very hyper-aware, so my husband does all the grocery shopping,” she said. “I stay home with my kids and I do freelance copywriting and editing from time to time, but it was pretty lucky my gig had just ended right before the spring because I would not have been able to do it. My kids are 7 and 4 — it would have been a lot,” Stockton said.
Stockton remembers a decision to go out and get Father’s Day cards in June — a quick outing amid the crisis. She wanted to support small businesses, so she went to a local store to buy the card. However, when she arrived, the tight store had quite a few people inside.
“This was before the mask mandate, so most people did not have on masks,” Stockton said. “People were almost shoulder to shoulder. And it was just scary.”
The store encouraged people to wear masks and had them available upon entry. Stockton wore a cloth mask and the employees were wearing masks.
“But people were definitely not social distancing, which was baffling to me, and not many were wearing masks,” Stockton said. “While I was looking at the Father’s Day cards, a woman came up and stood right next to me, and reached across me for a card. No mask. No ‘excuse me.’ No nothing. I jumped back and walked to an area with no people. It really rattled me.”
“Being high risk, there are so many variables on how you get it. By the time I went to go pay, I was shaking. And so after that, I was like you know what? I’m good now. I got my fill. I know what it’s like out there, and I don’t have any desire to go out,” Stockton said.
Getting out of the house during COVID-19
For Stockton, the “new normal” involves sleeping in a lot.
“We are all really lazy. We eat breakfast, and they’ll beg me to watch TV,” Stockton said.
Instead, she tries to get the kids to take a walk with the dog and play board games before lunch. Stockton has done projects to fill the time, such as painting her dining room and wallpapering the powder room.
“I’ve done a lot of DIY activities and projects for sure,” she said.
During COVID-19, Stockton sticks mostly to walking around her neighborhood. A few times, she and her family have taken day trips to places such as Ocean Isle and South Mountain State Park.
“I was like, let’s just do a hiking trail, and there was nobody there anywhere we went. It was absolutely amazing,” Stockton said.
Twice per month on Sundays, the Stockton family ventures out a bit more. Their routine involves going for a drive with the windows down and the music turned up, with a stop at Lunchbox Records, where they do curbside pickup. Afterward, they’ll go to the Charlotte Collective, where they feel comfortable because there’s hand sanitizer.
“It’s important to me to support local business. I want all the places I love to still be around once this is all over,” Stockton said. “Music helps me deal with stress, and Lunchbox offers curbside pickup, so we don’t have to go in. I’ve also become obsessed with planters from Queen City Crete.”
While the Stockton family usually avoids large crowds while out, there’s times when the conglomeration of people is unavoidable.
“There have been a couple of times where things were really tight, and I felt completely backed into a corner. I stood there frozen for a little bit, but then I think, ‘Alright, I’m just going to wait for these people to leave.’ You have people that are doing all the right things and the people who aren’t taking it seriously.”
Coming tomorrow: “I wish people had been more cautious.” A decision to stay home amid COVID, even now.