BY DANIELLA DIAZ
When I returned to McAllen to visit my parents the first week of March, I thought I’d only be here for a few days.
A global pandemic had other plans for me. Eight weeks later — 56 days and counting — this is my new reality. This 28-year-old CNN reporter is back in her hometown, living with her parents, and a new sort of rhythm has set in.
And what a different rhythm it is. I had just come off the heels of the experience of a lifetime as an embedded presidential campaign reporter for CNN. I spent a year covering Elizabeth Warren, attending all her public events, asking the Massachusetts senator questions every chance I got, and crisscrossing the country — sometimes visiting several states in a day. It couldn’t have been more frenzied or hectic.
And just like that, it was over. Warren dropped out of the race, and what started as a short visit home turned into something different, as COVID-19 brought life to a screeching halt. I was jolted back to a previous life without realizing what was happening, and a stillness I had forgotten set back in. Now, every day I wake up in my sister’s childhood bedroom, put on a new pair of sweatpants, grab a cup of coffee and start working remotely in the home where I grew up.
I was born here — in South McAllen, raised by my Mexican immigrant parents. I lived with them until I graduated from UTRGV (then University of Texas-Pan American) in 2014, and have lived in Washington, D.C. ever since.
When I left my parents’ home after graduation, I thought I’d never come back. It was a sad thought, but I genuinely believed I’d only see my family for short bursts, times when I was able to get off work and visit Texas. For the last six years, I only saw them for holidays or random weekend trips. I missed my parents, my brothers, my sister-in-law and my sister all the time. I ached for my young nephews. All I wanted during hard weeks at work or days filled with loneliness was to be home with my family having a carne asada and drinking Modelitos in my brother’s backyard.
And here we are — those days resumed, except not for a short burst. I am back to having dinners with my parents every night, seeing my siblings, spending time with my nephews as we all quarantine together. It’s like being in a strange sort of time machine.
It hasn’t all been easy. I miss my old life. I bicker with my siblings and my parents, have to fight for space in a home where we’re cooped up and living on top of each other. Meanwhile, a deadly force is sweeping across the globe. I have really dark days, like everyone else, of sadness and mourning. I cry often for the people affected by the virus: those getting sick, losing their jobs, their life savings, even loved ones. In a time of social distancing, we’re not able to connect to everyone we love the way we used to, despite needing human support and connection more than ever. This really is an invisible war.
And so I feel grateful when I think of the time I’m spending with my family. The beautiful moments I’m having helping my nephews with online school. The nights we spend together playing board games or watching a movie. I count myself lucky we are all healthy and safe, and given an unexpected opportunity to take care of one another in this scary and uncertain world. I know that years from now, when this is over, I’ll remember this time as a really important one in my life and my family’s.
After 56 days, I can’t predict how many more I will have before I am uprooted once again to return to an inevitably changed Washington, D.C. When I am, and the chaos returns, I will try to remember to slow down once in awhile, take a breath, and recall the comforting rhythm of home.
Editor’s Note: The coronavirus pandemic has changed everyday life across the Rio Grande Valley. To document that change, The Monitor is publishing personal accounts from journalists and everyday citizens. These are the stories of ordinary life in an extraordinary time. If you have a story to share, email us at email@example.com.
Daniella Diaz, a native of the Rio Grande Valley and former reporter for The Monitor, is a journalist working for CNN’s political unit.