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OU students amid coronavirus: Photographer captures family time during shelter-in-place in Dallas County

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Brothers

GARLAND, Texas — You never know when your last time will be your last. None of us expected our endings to come so quickly, but the past few weeks have made me realize there are some lasts that I get to reclaim. I may not sit at my office desk, learn in a classroom or live in Norman for the rest of my life. But, now I get to go fishing with my family again.

We may not catch many fish (contrary to what my brothers might say), but we’re safe, we’re healthy and we’re together. That can’t be said for a lot of families during this pandemic. My two brothers, my grandma and my parents are all living under one roof for the first time since I graduated high school. Sure, it can get annoying with two college kids and one high schooler all trying to navigate online classes with two working-from-home parents. When it gets overwhelming, I try to appreciate the fact that this extended family time is something I may never get again.

Fishing

My younger brothers and my dad try to catch a fish in our neighborhood pond.

Fishing isn’t the only time we get out of the house. Since I am no longer walking the South Oval every day, I have tried to take walks around my neighborhood. I take my camera occasionally, and I’ve found little reminders that there still are people living among us, though the streets are mostly empty.

Painted rock

This painted rock caught my eye on one of my walks, and I wondered who had the creativity to leave it there.

U R Loved

A comforting reminder for those who feel alone during this time.

Teddy Bear

Some residents started a scavenger hunt of teddy bears for the neighborhood children.

Since we spend so much time in the house with one another, my family and I sometimes forget that life isn’t the way it used to be anymore. I knew the grocery stores would be different, but it was very jarring to see my hometown Kroger so empty when I went out on April 6.

Limits

I went to Kroger about three times when I got home. They never had toilet paper.

Any meal, any time

The pandemic made this sign pretty ironic.

Corona

I wasn't sure if Corona was selling many beers, but I could take a guess by looking at the full display.

To try and capture this historical time in my life, I took a trip to the outdoor mall by my house. In the past, my family and friends would frequent this mall for all of our movie nights, shopping and favorite restaurants. We would sometimes spend whole days there. The eerie look of empty parking lots and stores was a stark contrast to the friendliness and comfort I found at home.

AMC Theater

This theater was our go-to for family movie night. Now, it serves no one.

Empty lot

Parking spots were usually hard to find.

Dillard's

One of the major department stores in the mall completely locked its doors.

I am the oldest of three children, and while I stick to the sidelines of sports, my brothers seem to never stop playing. Our driveway has always been their home court, and this lockdown didn’t slow them down one bit. I figured that this would be the only sport I get to photograph for a while, so I grabbed my camera and turned that concrete into the Lloyd Noble Center.

Jackson

College freshman forward Jackson Epes goes up to the basket in the Epes family driveway on April 10.

Logan

High school sophomore guard Logan Epes shoots the ball in the Epes family driveway on April 10.

Brothers

High school sophomore guard Logan Epes attempts a block on his brother, college freshman forward Jackson Epes, in the Epes family driveway on April 10.

Driveway

High school sophomore guard Logan Epes shoots a "three pointer" in the Epes family driveway on April 10.

Easter weekend fell in the middle of the shelter-in-place order for Dallas County. Our neighborhood’s Easter egg hunt was swapped for a paper egg hunt, so my family and I colored paper eggs to hang in our windows. Our Easter weekend always consists of dyeing hard-boiled eggs. Eating candy, sharing memories, hunting eggs and sitting around the table together helped us feel normal for a couple hours as the world stood still around us. We finally had a whole day to think about something other than the pandemic.

Egg drawing

I couldn't remember the last time I used crayons when I attempted to decorate this paper egg.

Crayons

We each picked out an egg design after my mom printed them out.

Coloring eggs

The older and bigger we get, the more my brothers and I have to spread out around the egg decorating.

Aftermath

The aftermath of our egg coloring on Easter Sunday.

Being in Texas, we take pictures with bluebonnets every year. The state flower is the backdrop for a decade’s worth of our family portraits. We piled into the car and drove 10 minutes to our traditional spot. When we look back on the bluebonnet photoshoot of 2020, we won’t see isolation or panic. Instead, we’ll see a family being closer than they ever imagined.

Bluebonnet

The bluebonnet. A special blue flower that means so much to all Texans.

Bluebonnets

Families with children young and old flocked to the bluebonnet fields.

When I wake up every morning in my childhood home, the coronavirus pandemic is not the first thing I think about. I’m fortunate that my first thought is about the familiarity and comfort that it brings me to be home with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I am frustrated and disappointed with everything that has been cut short because of all of this. But, I am also grateful that I am able to spend quality time with my family at a time I never thought was possible. 

After graduation, I am moving to Pittsburgh to begin a year-long internship with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I won’t be able to drive three hours and spend time with my family. I’ve been pulled back home right before I am supposed to move halfway across the country. On the verge of everything in my life being about change, it seems everything is frozen. But, like the blooming bluebonnets, it is changing, and it will change more in the next few months. This unprecedented time has reminded me that while life goes on, it is important to appreciate the times when life feels a little off.

Family pictures

I told them to pose for my photo essay. They gave a classic brotherly reaction.

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