And the People Stayed Home

Per­haps you saw it. On social media, or in a chain email. A poem that seemed like a hope­ful sigh went out into the world very ear­ly in the pan­dem­ic last spring and made its rounds as quick­ly as the virus.

And the peo­ple stayed home.
And they lis­tened, and read books,
and rest­ed, and exer­cised, and made art,
and played games, and learned new ways of being,
and were still….

(The full text of the poem can be found here. The sto­ry of the poem and a bit about the author is here—it too, feels like a balm dur­ing this time.)

And the People Stayed HomeIt wasn’t long before And the Peo­ple Stayed Home was made into a children’s book, and I ordered it imme­di­ate­ly when it became avail­able. It was back­o­rdered for months and has had mul­ti­ple print­ings. I final­ly received mine a few weeks ago.

It’s a larg­er book — one of those I have to lay hor­i­zon­tal on my book­shelves. The art is pret­ty per­fect for this spare poem, this prayer for our time in lock­down. At 113 words, it does not attempt to address every aspect of this com­pli­cat­ed time in which we live. What it does do is fea­ture some of the things those of us who can stay home have been doing dur­ing this time — at least dur­ing our bet­ter moments. Med­i­ta­tion … dance … think­ing dif­fer­ent­ly … chal­leng­ing our­selves to learn new things, think new things … be in new ways.

I read it to my reg­u­lar Zoom sto­ry­time group. They had play­dough at the ready. (Zoom Tip: Busy hands on Zoom helps with focus.)  I asked them to work the play­dough and watch the illus­tra­tions as I read. I read very slow­ly. I held the book as close to the cam­era as I could so they could see the art.

Then I asked them to make some­thing with the play­dough that has been either good about this pan­dem­ic time, or bad about it, or some­thing they were look­ing for­ward to when the pan­dem­ic is done. They worked so hard — they pum­meled that play­dough. They stretched it and rolled it, flat­tened it and wrote in it, sculpt­ed it and…created amaz­ing things that helped them voice their thoughts and feel­ings about this time.


They enjoyed bike rides, chalked side­walks, and games. They missed grand­par­ents and cousins and friends. Some liked school at home, some couldn’t wait to get back to in-per­son learn­ing. They were “still a lit­tle mad” about not being able to go on vaca­tion, and not start­ing kinder­garten. Many were upset that not every­one would wear a mask. They liked sum­mer more than win­ter. They liked dance par­ties after sup­per and on-line sto­ry­times. They sculpt­ed very accu­rate look­ing coro­n­avirus mod­els and slashed X’s through them. They wrote the word BAD in play­dough let­ters. They acknowl­edged that not every­one could stay home — such astute empa­thy — and that some who could chose not to. You could tell there were con­ver­sa­tions at home about these things.

Book Ther­a­py I call this. (I sup­pose we might give a nod to the play­dough, too.) The youngest among us are a resilient lot, per­haps because they can give voice to what has been lost and gained dur­ing this time.

Have you made your list of the good and the bad of this past year or so? I took a stab at it (sans play­dough) after our zoom sto­ry­time was done. It is an inter­est­ing exer­cise. Worth writ­ing down, I think. I won­der how much we’ll for­get about this time, and what we’ll remem­ber? I won­der what aspects of this time will result in last­ing changes? I won­der what sto­ries these chil­dren will tell their chil­dren and grandchildren.

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April Halprin Wayland
3 years ago

Melanie ~ Thank you for telling me about the book. I missed the poem, the book, every­thing. But that’s what hap­pens these days…
You pulled me in, showed me the book, the chil­dren, your process, their busy hands…so much in such a beau­ti­ful essay.

3 years ago

Thank you, Melanie! I had­n’t read it before, either. I will post it in my Poet­ry Cor­ner soon!