A year ago today was a Wednesday, which had become something of a special day for Drew and me. With both kids finally in school full time (Jackson was in third grade and Joanie had joined him at his school six months earlier as a full-time pre-k student), I had my days free – well, free as in I wasn’t juggling childcare with whatever else I was working on – for the first time in eight years. Drew had begun shifting to self-employment/freelance work a few days a week, and we decided to carve out time on Wednesdays, while the kids were in school, to have some couple time that didn’t involve paying a baby-sitter 20 bucks an hour. And it was great! We had leisurely lunches, trips into Manhattan to walk around Central Park, and one cold January Wednesday we even used a gift certificate I’d given Drew for Christmas to a spa where we relaxed in an outdoor hot tub, drinking champagne, as snow fell.
On Wednesday, March 11 of last year, the vibe was decidedly less leisurely. We suspected it was the last day before everything would change – though how could we ever know how much would change and for how long our lives would be disrupted? – and so, despite a cloud of doom already looming overhead, we tried to rally and get out for what we thought might be our last lunch date together for a month or two (lol). We decided to go to Industry City, a collection of buildings and businesses along the waterfront in south Brooklyn that, together, make up a kind of creative and foodie hub.
I remember checking my phone as we waited for the subway, the news looking increasingly bad. “In 1918,” I recall saying to Drew as we took a seat on the D train, “the Spanish flu killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.” We tucked our hands into our sleeves when we opened the door to one of the buildings in Industry City and wondered if we should look for hand sanitizer before we headed home. We saw a woman wearing a black rhinestone-studded mask and mused over whether fashion masks were going to become a thing. We ate ramen, and nothing about our lunch was noteworthy except how increasingly anxious we felt by the minute, the heaviness of the situation seemingly seeping into our bodies so that when we finished eating and stood to head back to the subway, it felt as though we were moving in slow motion. I think we were mostly silent on the way home, and that night, after the kids were in bed, after a global pandemic was declared, after we debated whether or not to send the kids to school in the morning (we did, so that they could collect their things and say good-bye to their teachers for what we thought might be a few weeks), I cried. “It feels like this is the beginning of something really, really big,” I remember saying.
The days that followed that are kind of a blur now. One by one, cities went into lockdown, schools were closed, I downloaded something called “Zoom.” Here in NYC, things got really real, really fast in a way can only be described as “traumatic,” and I think it’s something a lot of us are still processing. Within two weeks, sirens filled the air nonstop, as in a war zone, and it lasted for weeks on end. On the last day of March, a teacher at my kids’ school was the first public school teacher in the city (maybe in the country) to die of Covid. We had friends who had all the Covid symptoms, and Drew and I began feeling Covid symptoms. But there were hardly any tests available, and the doctors we spoke to remotely simply told us to assume we had it, stay home, isolate from our kids (um, how?), and call if our symptoms got worse. It was a scary, super anxious time, and here we are a year later and it’s hard to even fathom everything we’ve all been through in these past 12 months.
Over dinner the other night, I told Drew and the kids how proud I was of us. We’ve had more isolated time together than I ever imagined we would in a year’s time – working and doing school full-time from home – and we still get along. There have been some really tense moments, but we didn’t kill each other, and I think we’re stronger as a family than we ever were before. Still, I can’t wait for things to get back to normal – or “normal” – with my kids safely back in school, and Drew and I able to, once again, carve out some time for just the two of us. I can’t wait to travel again and see movies and concerts and plays and go to museums and visit family and all of the stuff that goes beyond simply surviving day by day and reach thriving day by day.
What about you? What do you remember from a year ago today? How has your life changed since then, and what are you most looking forward to and we slowly crawl back to some semblance of normalcy? Is there anything you’ll miss from how life has been for you over the past 12 months?