Editor’s note: The Virus Diaries is a series in which Mainers talk about how they are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Ann and Bill Hinderer of Peaks Island are staying positive through the pandemic by reading, gardening – and enjoying Bill’s story hour. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Ann and Bill Hinderer have been married for more than a half-century, living on Peaks Island for the last 30 years. The Hinderers, both 74, have been largely secluded during the pandemic, but it can be challenging at times to be stuck at home.

The highlight of their days has been a ritual that started in March: Each day just before 3 p.m. Ann makes tea, they go into the dining room and Bill tells her a story for the better part of an hour.

A member of the Portland storytelling group the Maine Organization of Storytelling Enthusiasts, Bill Hinderer, a retired restaurant cook, has enjoyed telling stories in front of an audience for 30 years. Now his favorite pastime is providing a positive pause every afternoon for his wife of 51 years.

“It’s a challenge coping when you’re in your 70s and sheltering at home. But Bill’s stories put the virus at bay,” said Ann Hinderer, a retired schoolteacher.

“Every afternoon after gardening, I make a peppermint tea, and listen to tales of Scotland, seafaring stories, humorous stories – and serious ones from Bill’s service as a combat infantry lieutenant in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. My favorite from that time is his story ‘Vietnam Valentine,’ about a card I sent him that has Miss Dior perfume on it. The way Bill tells it, for just a moment there was no war, only my scent of Miss Dior and my card. Every couple has their moments, certainly, and we’ve been through a lot together. But we each found our soulmate. And here we are on Peaks Island, which is a great place to be.

“I sit in his grandmother’s rocker, I’ve got Tulip, our corgi, at my feet, and our cat, Nilla, in my lap, and I’ve got my forever boyfriend telling me a story. The animals always follow us into the dining room by the wood stove. I tell you if you ever get a corgi and you start any kind of routine, they will always do the same thing. Bill will tell me it’s time, and we’re all in that room for an hour.

“Bill’s stories really do help me. He’s told me a lot of humorous stories. He gets me laughing. I like that a lot. And I think I’ve become a better listener, hearing his stories each day. I’m all Irish and Bill is Scottish on his mother’s side, so he tells me a lot of old tales from Scotland that are heartwarming, and reassuring.

“We don’t have a television. We don’t have media, like a computer. We have a radio and listen to NPR. We get the Press Herald, and I read it, but if I read too much news, I get upset. We both love to read. And that has been hard – not having the library (open). But the hardest thing for both of us, we can’t go down to Rhode Island to see our daughter and our granddaughter.

“My whole philosophy when I was teaching is that you have to keep things in a positive light to cope with your life. So we are leaving our Christmas candles in the window, a single candle in four of our windows. Normally I would take them down in January. But we are leaving them up for now.”

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