Maintaining the Medieval - In the days of Quarantine

Updated: Jan 23

Can I be honest with you for a sec?


When our family first went into quarantine, I didn’t think it would be that difficult. After years of camping and the SCA, I figured hunkering down in our house with all its modern conveniences would be a cakewalk. After all, if there was ever a group of people capable of surviving the apocalypse it would be medieval reenactors. We're used to camping in harsh conditions and improvising creative solutions to our problems.

Clearly, this was my time to shine and all those years of training would finally pay off.


Nope.


When the pandemic started gaining speed in the US I was still recovering from heart surgery. I was doing mild cardio and building up my strength to get back to normal--then my kids came home from school for Spring Break and they never went back. My husband's work classified him as an essential employee, so he still went to the office 9-5. That meant I was home alone in my weakest condition possible, and the kids were 100% dependant on me. Honestly, I was counting on the kid's time at school to be a buffer. I thought their time away would give me a few hours of peace and quiet to relax while I recovered.


Open heart surgery has a LONG recovery, and I wasn't prepared to be thrown back into the fray quite so soon. Nevertheless, we were able to make it work. It was fine at first, a novel change in pace from what we were expecting, but as the days passed, and those days turned into weeks, the reality of our situation began to take its toll. I missed seeing our friends and attending craft night. I missed going to SCA events and feeling like I was part of a community.


Once again, I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. Yet, after months of quarantine and the added strain of having the kids at home, even the Zoom chats started feeling empty. I was depressed. Since I was technically classified in the high-risk category of the population, my husband and I opted to homeschool our kids this year and minimize the risk of exposure. Needless to say, it’s been an uphill battle—and one I’m grateful for. It’s easy to get frustrated and believe me, I’ve had my moments, but I trained myself to focus on the positive.


Pandemics are EXTREMELY medieval and cropped up at various times throughout history. As I began to research, I learned that people then had similar struggles to what I was going through. I also learned that great artists completed masterful pieces during this time--they made use of their skill to beautify the world, even in their time of solitude. I found that oddly poetic. Only an artist could take something miserable and unfortunate, and turn it into a masterpiece.


After a while, I realized that being stuck in a house with my kids 24/7 didn’t have to be a burden, it could be a gift. That was a hard pill for me to swallow at first, and it's one I have to remind myself of often, but it made this crazy time together more bearable. Yes, being in quarantine sucks, but I decided to make the most of it and view this time together as an opportunity. It was a chance for me to teach them valuable life skills that I sometimes take for granted: sewing, cooking, art, and medieval history--maybe even heraldry!

My plan was to include these subjects in their course work and let them share my creative projects. However, that's easier said than done.


There’s only enough room for one person to be at the sewing machine at a time, so we’ve had to juggle their attention. There have been times where I wanted to pull my hair out, or even sob into a pillow, but that's when I remind myself of the end game. Ten years from now, my kids are going to look back on this time and remember. They'll remember the time of quarantine and how we came together as a family.


I spent hours with my daughter, drawing pictures and planning out the dress she wanted to make—then days cutting and pinning fabric. That process not only taught her how to sew but about medieval clothing and textiles. I watch her eyes light up when she grasps how an outfit is meant to be assembled. She knows the difference between natural fibers and a polyester blend and the benefits of each. It's been wonderful to see her understanding of these concepts grow.


My son doesn’t have the same interest in learning how to sew, but he’s quite adept at playing medieval board games and even started making his own versions using felt and colored stones. He'll bring the pieces out into the living room and ask us to play, which makes me happy as a parent.


One day we'll get back to attending SCA events and my kids will be able to take these skills with them. It’s been hard finding time to work these projects into the school day, but one way or another we made it work. I’m grateful for the chance to share my love of history with my kids and show them how much fun it can be.

Jennifer Siddoway

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