Focus On: Diane Benke & Family

“We have lived in Westport 10 ½ years. I am a stay at home mom & amateur triathlete/swimmer. My husband works in finance in NYC. He is working from home. 

We’ve settled finally into a routine after 5 weeks. My biggest challenge is keeping my two boys 1) academically engaged/challenged with the homeschooling, 2) having them physically active and 3) preventing them from spending too much time on video games! Managing a household and maintaining “order” with everyone home is a challenge – my work has increased in terms of parenting, rule and chore setting but also keeping everyone in good spirits, etc. 

I feel like folks are managing the best they can. Some are giving back by setting up donations to Gillespie Center or making masks and distributing them, collecting for food banks etc. Others are helping their neighbors in need (who are vulnerable and can’t leave their homes). Folks are trying to reach out to one another with zoom calls, and small acts of kindness (just checking in on how we are doing) etc. Like anywhere else, situations like this one can bring out the best and worst in people. I try to look for the good. We’ve participated in birthday drive-by parades for my children’s friends.  

My father is a holocaust survivor and my mother grew up in Slovakia under communism so I try to keep perspective that this situation could be way worse. Seeing bare shelves at the supermarket gives me a sense of what it was like for my mother growing up with limited produce and grocery options. I try not to complain because my father told me he was under house arrest for two years (only able to get out once a week for two hours). I am trying to teach my children resilience, perseverance and gratitude by example. I’ve learned how to dig deep from endurance sports and the long-distance races I’ve participated in. There is a moment in the training or race where it gets tough, and you get through it. Life is a roller coaster. There is hardship and suffering, but experiencing the lows, make the high points that much richer. 

Life is a roller coaster. There is hardship and suffering, but experiencing the lows, make the high points that much richer.  

My fears are that our lives will never be the same – that we won’t be as social or interact with one another as much as we did before. I fear that the new norm will be life behind a computer screen, phone, face mask and closed doors. I mourn less travel and larger group events like concerts or Broadway shows. I don’t want to lose what is special about the human experience – connecting with each other on a personal and deep level. My greatest hope is that we learn from this pandemic in multiple ways. I hope we learn to be more present, to treat the environment and one another better. I hope we practice gratitude and come out of this stronger, better prepared to deal with adversity. 

I am grateful that we have made a home in Westport and it is a true community. During this pandemic and stay at home order, we’ve been able to connect with our local friends, support local restaurants and businesses. I believe that what you put out in the world comes back to you — and the relationships we’ve made in town are helping us get through this together. Westport has so much to offer from its beaches to its cultural and educational resources – much of this still exists but in a different format. I am grateful for my children’s’ teachers and the daily assignments they’ve created (how quickly the Westport education system prepared for this!).” 

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To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.