Decking the halls to ward off the COVID-19 quarantine blues
New Brunswickers paint windows and hunt teddy bears to keep busy and show solidarity during pandemic
It's starting to look festive at many New Brunswick homes, in spite of the sombre reality all are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In communities and neighbourhoods all over the province, people are decorating their windows, doors or yards with messages and symbols of hope.
Sisters Samantha Richard, 17, and Annabelle, 14, covered the entire picture window of their home in Tracadie with paintings of a rainbow, flags from around the world, and the slogan "Stronger Together," in English and French.
The teens said they wanted to show they were thinking of all the countries affected by COVID-19. They wanted to give encouragement and show support.
"We wanted to get the message out that if everyone works together by practising social distancing we can help stop the spread of the virus," said Samantha.
Mom and Dad, Nancy and Clarence Richard said when they're not working on window art, the family is keeping busy with indoor activities such as board games and communicating with friends and extended family through social media.
"We also take the time to think about how we live and how we can learn from this and improve our way of life," said Clarence.
Rainbows have been showing up on many windows in New Brunswick, and around the world, as people try to reassure themselves and others that this difficult period of self-isolation or quarantine will pass.
Many homes in northeastern New Brunswick also bear the slogan, Ça va bien aller, meaning, it's going to be okay.
On the opposite end of the province, teddy bears have been lifting spirits of folks of all ages on the small island community of Grand Manan.
Ginny Riseborough borrowed the idea for a "teddy bear hunt" from a friend across the border, in the U.S., and posted it in a local bulletin board group.
Riseborough was looking to have some fun. She describes herself the type of person who "refuses to grow up."
Fellow islanders joined in with gusto.
"It just grew and grew," said Riseborough. "It's wonderful."
"Bears and stuffed animals were propped up in window sills, at the end of driveways, on swings, slides and even ATVs," said resident Tara Linton.
"It was so great to see everyone's creativity," she said.
Linton normally works in childcare, but has been in self-isolation for the past two weeks. She has Type 1 diabetes, which puts her at higher risk from the coronavirus.
Linton said she enjoyed the first little bit of down time, but now it's getting "too quiet" and she misses the kids.
The island-wide "teddy bear hunt" has been a fun and safe way to spread a little joy "during these dark and scary times," she said.
One "hunter" reported spotting bears at 130 different homes.
Belva Brown has six bears in her window.
"At first she thought it was just for one day," said Brown's daughter, Grand Manan village councillor Jayne Turner.
"Then a little girl and her nanna came and they called her to see where her bears were, so the bears went back up."
Turner said her mother, who is 91, had been living in a retirement centre in Saint John, but decided to move home a few weeks ago when visitation at the centre was first being restricted.
She still drives and normally goes out to visit island friends on a regular basis, said Turner.
Because of the need to self-isolate, Brown is connecting with others during the pandemic by doing things like competing in word game tournaments on-line.
The teddy bear hunt has been another way to socialize while still observing the order to stay home as much as possible.
"We have to do whatever we can to make seniors feel they are still part of the community and let them know we are thinking about them and want to take care of them," said Turner.
The hunt also allows older residents to pitch in to keep children entertained, said Turner, while they're not allowed to play together with friends or go to school.
"It's really a neat little project," Turner said.
"It seems to be good for everybody.
The councillor also finds it a relief that people have something else to talk about besides the pandemic.
"Any feel-good things are pretty critical right now," she said.
"Physical health is the main concern, obviously, but the mental health side of it, having things that give you that little spark, are really almost as important ... because this could go on for a while."
People in some communities northwest of Fredericton are starting to decorate for another hunt that will take place over the next couple of weeks.
"It's slowly coming together," said Amanda Tucker Brewer.
She's encouraging people in the Keswick Valley to Nackawic area to decorate their windows as part of a worldwide Easter egg hunt.
"So when people go for walks or drives with their families … they can count them as they go. Or just look at the window display to sort of brighten their day."
Tucker Brewer has been in self-isolation for two weeks with her 10-year-old son Josh Brewer.
Her immune system is compromised due to Crohn's Disease.
"We're going a little stir crazy, but we are trying to find things to do to keep us busy."
The mother and son go out in their yard or take walks around their neighbourhood and spend time making crafts.
Tucker Brewer doesn't want people to feel limited to decorating with Easter eggs.
"However people want to express themselves to bring a little bit of happiness to the kids while they're all cooped up."