MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – It all started with the idea for a formal dinner.
Melissa Bennett, tired of everyone lounging around at home in T-shirts and shorts in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, had her three children and husband dress their best and sit down for a nice family meal.
The Middleburg family, like millions of families around the world, was just looking to add some variety to their lives while they practiced social distancing.
“Then we suggested 'Hey, we should do like a theme night every night.’ So we just kind of got started with it and then it blew up,” Bennett told News4Jax.
Since then, the Bennett family has taken their self-quarantine game to the next level with the help of a green screen, an endless supply of costumes and a little imagination.
“We just started looking up other things on the internet, just different themed days and trying to piece these things together as we could. We’re quickly running out of options,” Bennett said.
So far, theme nights have included Super Hero Night, Flip the Switch Night (where the children dressed up like the parents and the parents dressed up like the children), Apocalyptic Night, Club Night, Meme Night, Ninja Turtle Night and Cake Challenge Night.
The family — which also includes Candace, Alexis, Sebastian and husband Erik — takes group photos showing the elaborate costumes created for each themed night and shares them on Facebook. Each post is tagged “#coronacation.”
“So many people that just are loving it,” Melissa Bennett said. “I get so many messages from friends, people that I’m really not even close with but they’re just saying that we absolutely look forward to what you’re doing. Nobody knows what’s going on right now and everybody’s got so many concerns, so if we can make a couple of people happy for even just a few minutes, it’s worth it.”
After years of everyone going in different directions, Bennett said the last few weeks have been a bonding experience for the family. But it’s not all fun and games.
Candace Bennett, who works at a Clay County restaurant that has closed its dining area, has concerns about the future, like many others who work in the service industry.
“There’s a little worry, but we all have hope that we’re going to make it through and that we’re going to come out stronger,” she said.
Meanwhile, Erik Bennett had to travel to Canada, where he is currently quarantined in a hotel room for 14 days.
Melissa Bennett said the whole experience has taught her the importance of patience.
“That’s been a big part. And you know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows,” she said. “You know, we had one day I just sent everybody in their rooms. I was like ‘We all just need a day.’ But after years of chaos and crazy schedules, we are enjoying slowing it down a little bit and enjoying each other’s time because there’s not a whole lot of time left with the kids at home."