The seven pm essential clap

I was outside with a dog who needed to pee. And then, there were people hanging out of their windows clapping. Calling, “I love you,” and “thank you.” One man pulled his car over and got out to clap. I will go there tonight at 7 PM to clap.

I started this post at the start of the pandemic. Almost a year ago now. There was no way to know that this would go on for so long. A year and longer. I was sick when I started this post a year ago. I had Covid when there was absolutely no information and no real help unless you were dying. I was so thankful to not be dying. I spent every day on the couch searching the internet for information to tell me how long it would take to get better. I was looking for information about whether or not I was likely to get sicker or maybe die.

But, each day, I set my alarm so that I did not miss the essential clap. I would head to the window that was a few feet from my couch bed. I would search the windows of the building around me for the other clappers. Some nights if I felt a little better, I would head up to the roof so that I could see who was clapping around more of the neighborhood. There were kids with pots and pans. There was someone with what sounded like a Tuba. There was a lot of honking. Then there was just the lower tech version of appreciation. Those of us who just clapped and yelled.

I would tire quickly and I would head back to my couch bed but not before I waved to the older lady across the street. She would open her window and lean on her forearms out the window to clap. Most nights we would wave to each other. I would not let my boys come clap with me because we were doing a good job staying separated. Me on the couch trying to keep other people from getting sick.

My sister, doing her job as a nurse, would text and call every day to try to figure out if I was the same or better or worse. She worried about me and I worried about her. There was no way to get tested because there were no tests. I also ended up in the emergency room twice. Once with a heart murmur that I had never had before and a second time for trouble breathing. The second visit was in a hospital where the halls and beds were filled with people in various states of sickness. I felt terrible but I looked around and could see that I was probably doing the best. Oxygen tanks and masks on so many people. Every person there, there alone.

I was still in the ER when the essential clap was supposed to happen but it did not feel like I should be clapping. The doctors and nurses were flying around the spaces. They were hard to recognize as yours or mine because they were so covered up with protection. I found myself thinking that if they got sick, what would we all do. It was 7 and I was supposed to be clapping so instead I just thought about the clap. I looked around me mindfully trying to send appreciation to the doctors. Silently willing thank yous around the room.

My doctor came back and she said, “You are sick but I do not think you need to stay here. You can go home and keep resting.” I took that as, “You are not dying and the people here are or may be. So now you need to get out of here.” She was right. I started to cry.

The essential clap was essential for me in the first months of the pandemic because it helped me reach beyond the couch and out into the world where other people were scared and still fighting. I would fight too. I would remember gratitude. It is essential.

5 thoughts on “The seven pm essential clap

  1. Abigail Lund

    The most essential part of the post is that YOU are okay. My heart sank as I read your narrative. It’s so good to have hope in something bigger than ourselves when we are struggling. Thanks for sharing such a personal story.

  2. jcareyreads

    Welcome back. I’m so glad you’re here, one year later. My mother in law just wrote in my birthday card, how blessed we were not be included in the 500,000 who were as lucky. I remember reading about the clapping in your posts last year. I think it would make a beautiful picture book, about how people got through together.

  3. dmsherriff

    Wow! What an experience you have captured here. The clapping so full of hope, of life, of gratitude. I can hear it, now. I am glad you are here this year to continue writing and sharing!

  4. karpenglish

    I am glad that you are better and that you are back with us, writing again this year. You wove a beautiful story about the different ways the “essential clap” had meaning for all of us, and how important it can be to have something to hang on to in hard times.


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