The coronavirus pandemic has forced families across the country to shelter in place and spend more time together in close quarters. Though it has yet to be included in federal health guidelines, I have argued from the start that, to be safe, family members should steer clear of each other and only communicate via Civil War-era letters home.
Ideally, you need a horse for proper Civil War letter delivery, but in a pinch, a household pet will do. (Please exercise caution when fastening worn leather saddle bags to cats.)
To help those who aren’t already using this coronavirus-proof means of communication, here, as an example, is my most recent letter home to my wife, who was seated 6 feet away:
My dearest Martha,
I pray this letter finds you and the children, who I see are 6 feet away from you and a total of 12, 18 and 24 feet away from me, respectively, well and in good health.
Your letters three in number reached me this morn, and I dare say they have brought a welcome ray of light to these most difficult times. (By the way, have you fed the mail delivery cat? She looks weary. God willing she has not been stricken by tuberculosis or smallpox.)
I was most pleased to hear you are finding comfort on the opposite end of the couch from me, and it is a blessing to know you were pleased to receive the blanket I threw to you, being careful not to violate the 6-foot separation policy instituted by our beloved Gen. Anthony Fauci.
I am sorry I have not written this past fort-hour, Martha, but I was consumed in full by a Netflix documentary that, at least for a moment, tore my mind away from our miserable war against this dreadful virus.
Without such distraction, I might entertain the most gloomy forebodings of the future and further demoralize you and the children, which would dispirit me to no end, and also force you to again write and tell me to stop being so depressing. I reckon I shall never forget the words you wrote to me a mere 12 hours ago, in the loving tone I miss so deeply: “What the hell is your problem? It’s not like you’re a nurse or doctor out actually doing something. You’re literally just sitting comfortably indoors. Stop being an idiot!”
Oh, Martha, how I long to again hear your compassionate words, to hold you and the children and return to the days of peace and happiness we once had.
I dreamed of home night before last, as I was asleep in our actual home. I love to dream of home as it seems so much like really being there, which I am, but, you know, it’s different now, what with us all being 6 feet apart and such. Oh how I do ramble, my dear. You noted that in your letter a fortnight ago, writing as only you can, that you don’t understand why we have to keep writing these letters and “this is just weird, none of our friends are doing this, are you sure this is necessary?”
How I miss that spirit, my love!
On to other matters, I am pleased to report that I am in good health, save one injury. While making the dangerous crossing from the living room to the dining room, I stepped on a particularly sharp Lego block and fell to the ground helpless, unable to rise to my feet. I fear I did let fly a profanity, of which I am deeply ashamed and shall pray for forgiveness.
As no medics were available, I treated myself and by God’s grace was able to avoid amputation. I assure you the vile soul who left the Lego block in that fateful spot, surely our son Ambrose, has been sent a strongly worded missive from yours truly. He should be receiving it by cat as soon as the poor animal is able to manage the journey from your spot on the couch to the kitchen, where I assume Ambrose is standing 6 feet from his brother, Thaddeus, sneakily devouring our lean stores of comestibles.
As if my days were not bleak enough, I do fear hunger is on the horizon. We are running perilously low on cilantro and will surely run out of quinoa before our next Instacart delivery pierces the delay the coronavirus has cast upon our land. Please attach a list to the cat as soon as you are able and pray we are blessed with a strong Wi-Fi signal.
I love you, my darling, and should I survive the perils of waiting out this war in a comfortable home with all modern conveniences and very little to complain about other than slightly longer than usual Amazon delivery times, I swear we shall embrace joyously and again speak aloud.
Until then, I will fight on for our country. My love to you and the children (do kiss little Adelaide for me) and rest assured I shall write again as soon as I am able, probably in about 15 minutes when I will need you to pass me the television remote.
Your loving husband, Josiah Huppke
Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.