Honolulu Quarantine Diary: It’s the Weekend. What in the Heck Will We Do?

We took our Super Bowl party equipment and used it for a COVID-19 movie party.


Two girls wearing masks.

The challenge: keep these two entertained for two months. Photo: Christi Young



My husband and I blew through our parent ammunition too early. Once school was canceled I had to quickly figure out how to entertain my two young kids while writing more than one coherent sentence a day. We caved almost immediately and resorted to our bag of tricks.


Every night became movie night. (Ninety minutes of focused work time for mom.) The inflatable pool made more than one appearance. (Emailing in between cheering for my daughters, whether they were belly flopping, running through the sprinkler or dousing the dog.) We turned on Disney Junior TV shows in the morning (27-minute-long email-and-editing blocks for me, with three-minute commercial breaks/kid check-ins in between) and ate dinner in the backyard on weeknights (why not?).


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So, when weekends rolled around, what was left? Those days off used to be reserved for big hilariously loud family dinners with my parents, sisters and their six kids and sometimes their friends, too. Not with social distancing. We tried car rides around the island. But “exploring” other places by whipping past them at 25 to 65 mph apparently didn’t entertain the kids. We tried drawing our own bingo cards to play on the road and discovered not only that Honolulu has a severe shortage of yellow cars, but my preschooler has the reaction time of a small, albeit adorable, sloth and misses anything we point out through the window. We tried board game night. My 4- and 9-year-old could never find one they both liked. For family fun, we had to get creative.


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It came down to one thing. What do we miss most? People—even from more than 6 feet away. Stealing an idea from HONOLULU Family magazine, we decided to throw a block party movie night, COVID-19 style. Since in the days of stay-at-home orders, anticipation can keep kids motivated for days, we planned weeks in advance. I tasked my 9-year-old to design invitations for the families living around us, even those without young kids as a preemptive mea culpa for the impending noise, announcing the night and guidelines for our get-together: Please enjoy the movie from your own driveway and no snack sharing. One night, she stealthily dropped them off at homes on our street. We debated movie selections and counted down to showtime.



Movie Screen set up outside

The theater featured lots of elbow and leg room. Photo: Christi Young



Saturday evening, we pulled out the projector and movie screen normally reserved for our annual Super Bowl party and set it up in the garage, facing away from the house. When the sun started setting, we waved across the street to our neighbors, who emerged to set up beach chairs and blankets on driveways, in yards and along the sidewalk. Then we broke open our microwave popcorn, kakimochi and li hing gummy apples and streamed the newly released, Trolls: World Tour. Conversation was encouraged. Tradewinds kept things cool. Kids who had to go to the bathroom simply ran home. Some parents even took advantage of the distraction for a children-free two hours. And as the sound of other peoples’ laughter mixed with my girls’ giggles, weeks of stress and isolation washed away. It was a wonderful night.


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A few weeks later, we set up the screen once again. This time, my niece and two nephews, who we have only seen in passing for more than a month, walked over from their house and set up camp in the corner of our yard. We rented a Redbox movie for just a few dollars (versus $19.99 for Trolls), then sprung for the family-size—although I would call it block-party-size—bag of popcorn from Consolidated Theatres and filled a dozen lunch bags with the buttery kernels. Handing them out—at arms length and with my mask on—to our neighbors sitting on the curb, I was Santa at the end of the holiday parade. It was such a fun break that we are planning one more movie block party for the weekend when the paramedic down the street has a night off. Perhaps we’ll continue the tradition once we can again gather close. But it will never mean as much as it does right now.