Monday, March 22, 2021

365 Days

Typically I would sum up a year by the trips taken, the birthdays, holidays, special events, accomplishments, and growth. Whereas many of those things took place in the last year, they were all handled very differently. This year will forever be known as the year the pandemic changed our lives. Together with everyone I knew, I watched anxiously as the world came to a screeching halt before my eyes. Each new day more of our life became less and less normal. As the virus spread more and more uncertainty came with it. From the beginning there was this strange blend of joy and sadness with being stuck at home. Early on I took to baking projects, crafts, and playing a ton of games with my family. Having always been curious about homeschooling, I was excited to try my hand at it with my children. For my son, who had a wonderful class and second grade teacher, I was heartbroken to have to explain that he wasn’t going to get to go back after spring break. For my daughter who was in her first year of middle school, I was thrilled to have her home. Middle school had given her exposure to materialism, cell phones and social media. She went in so innocently, and came home each day with her eyes wide from talk she had heard at school. She felt small, because she was on the smaller side for elleven. This had never bothered her before, but when it was pointed out to her from others, it crept under her skin. The school was three times the size of her elementary school, so her fear of finding her way was real. She had begun to settle in by February, but having her home was a chance to keep her elleven going on twelve, instead of elleven going on fifteen. There was also so much coming at her quickly and even she welcomed slowing it down for a beat. There was a relief some of the time to not have to attend obligatory work, events, or make a holiday meal for a houseful. There was the welcomed quiet and slower pace that I didn’t even realize how much I needed until it was imposed on me. There was the discovery of home projects that we could suddenly focus on. There was time to be together as a family for lunch in the middle of the day, which we were treasured from the start. There was seeing a close neighbor/friend when I walked each morning and taking a few minutes each day to connect with her while she talked to me from her balcony. Making masks together with her for all of the senior citizen neighbors we had, comparing recipes, and hiding painted rocks for children to find. There was music to listen to and instruments to learn. There was more art, more movies, and more family. There were also dark days that I would wake up afraid. I would have to remind myself that this kind of anxiety was normal during abnormal times. There were times when I felt the absence of community so deeply. There were moments as a parent when I cried along with my children for the frustration they felt when their entire school experience moved into a computer and cut them off from their friends. I felt the responsibility for their well being and doubted my ability to provide them with everything they needed. The village that it took to raise them disappeared in one weekend, and they looked to me to explain what I was going to do about it. In the beginning we realized we were all in this together, but so isolated and alone. We all tried to find a path to follow down unknown uncharted territory. There were so many mornings that I woke up forgetting how the world had changed only to be shocked all over again by reality. We all had so many questions and so few answers. I watched the news, read the newspaper and listened to the radio. Staying informed made me more upset because there was nothing good to learn in the beginning, but turning off the news made me feel worse. Science began to guide us with information and provided us with clearer precautions to take. The winter began to fade out and spring flooded in. I got outside as much as possible for walks since in the beginning nowhere else felt safe to go. My parents were visiting us and in the beginning we would have them over for dinner, or have them watch a movie with us, but it quickly became clear that we needed to keep our distance. They were stuck inside their little one room rental and I would deliver groceries to them. We would have visits only when we were outside, masked and from a distance, but not being able to hug them was something that was noticeably missed. After a few months a few things opened up and we were able to enjoy outdoor activities together, but I was so cautious and careful to keep them safe. The virus could very well be deadly to them so our roles reversed as I reminded them daily of the rules. As summer approached my parents wanted to go back home to New York, and although I was unhappy about putting them on a plane, they left right before the virus got really bad here. They got home safely and I’m grateful for that. Like many, our finances took a hit. We made difficult decisions and rearranged our money. We watched as our country reacted to the racial inequity that was ignored for far too long. We watched the riots destroy our neighborhood fearfully yet understandably. We protested for justice, we prayed for peace while wondering how we could repair our badly broken world. Together with my husband, kids and dog we took a road trip to six states to see friends, some family and national parks. We planned and prepared for everything ahead of time so that we could remain safe the whole time. We stayed outside the entire trip save for the nights in hotel rooms when we went in and cleaned before we let the children touch anything. It was a trip we will remember forever and one we would have never taken if it wasn’t for the pandemic. My husband taught the three of us how to surf and we spent countless days at the beach. We played tennis, did scavenger hunts with friends, and the fun helped us feel fleeting moments of normalcy. When summer ended and the school year began, our kids started learning from home with no plan in sight to return to school. It was one thing to have to finish out the school year at home, but to start one out that way from the beginning was discouraging. My two children had two very different challenges that came with it, both of which were equally as painful to witness. For my daughter handling the academics virtually did not take much of an adjustment, but the absence of peers during the middle of middle school was trying. She is too young to really navigate plan making without some assistance from us, and too old for her parents to be arranging her social life for her, so as a result it was easier for her to fall into doing nothing socially. She kept up with friends through text threads and quickly learned how flawed that poor substitute for the real thing really is. She saw one friend often but too often for it to remain sustainable. After a summer of mostly only seeing each other they began to argue, fight and push each other’s buttons. She has started to branch out to other friends, but not at all in a way that would come naturally if she was in school everyday. For my son, his issues were with how frustrating it was for him to learn how to learn from a screen. He cried over not being able to return to school. He longed for being able to sit with others while they did their school work side by side. With no prior knowledge with any of the platforms they use for his class, he struggled to learn the technology needed to be able to find and submit his work. When he gets stuck he gets angry, aggravated and sometimes furious with us as we try to help him. He will later say he is sorry for being mean, but in the moment we are easier targets than addressing the real situation as a whole, because at eight he even knows there is no use wasting his breath. School will reopen when school reopens. As the cooler weather came, along with it came the holidays and a lot of people getting together to celebrate them. As feared the numbers of Covid cases spiked and another lockdown began. The hospitals reached capacity and many more lives were lost. We hunkered down even more, kept our distance from friends, and stopped the few things outside we were doing until the surge quieted. Once it was safe enough we took frequent trips to the mountains to ski finding peace in the open air and space. We went as many times as we could doing virtual school from a little cabin before heading back to the slopes. We invested in season passes this year, and every penny was worth it. We skied more this season than we have in all the years the kids have skied put together. It is hard to believe that a year ago my children were sent home from school a week early for Spring break and they haven’t gone back since. This week is the week before Spring break this year and just like that we made it through a year that we no one will ever forget. We entered the unknown together and joined forces without joining hands. There were many dark moments, but there were also opportunities that only came because of this time. The group of people that I worked in a show with over twenty years ago reconnected. That experience years ago was one of the most monumental in my life to date, so it saddened me that we had lost contact. Despite all the time that had passed, all the states we have moved to, and the families we have started, we picked up where we left off. We were a family woven together by the director who led us to trust, care, and support one another as we tackled the project’s theme of racism and anti semitism. We started having weekly zooms together catching each other up. A few weeks into our calls, George Flyod was killed and our country cried out for long overdue justice. The irony that we were all reconnected at this time was not lost on us. Our tone changed from cheerful to somber but we stayed connected and continued to talk about what was happening. I don’t believe we would have all found each other again in this way if it wasn’t for this year being this way. We would not have traveled the way we did if it wasn’t for the limitations caused by the pandemic. The trip we did was one that I had hoped we could do at some point, but obligatory visits to family, or vacation time spent for special events, didn’t leave us the time. Surfing and playing tennis together was something I also hoped we would all learn one day. The pandemic taught me that “one day” is right now. My life had been too fast paced to actually take much of it in. I filled my day by running errands and often saying yes to things that took time away from being with my family. This year gave me more time with my family than I ever thought I wanted, but it allowed me to witness my children grow in a way I hadn’t before. It also accentuated the strengths in my husband that I admire so much in him. Over time, the chance to talk to each other daily was often put on the back burner while we worked on our own projects, or catered to our kids. This time stuck at home gave us the opportunity to sit a bit longer together in the morning when our day started, or sit at the table after dinner after the kids were done eating and just talk. We may not have many dates out alone together, but it is nice after all this time stuck at home, that I still love being around him. I miss alone time in general, but these three people are the only people I could have imagined having to be around this long. As long as a year is, and this one felt really long, I am impressed with the progress that has been made. There has been so much loss and so seeing the beginning of the end is promising. Our schools are finally beginning preparation to reopen, millions of people are being vaccinated, and with every photo I see of people hugging family after a year apart I am hopeful for the future.