Twelve months ago, our lives changed. Schools, colleges, offices, and businesses shutdown. People got sick. People died. I started writing about it on March 3, 2020.
A week later, in the second week of March, my house was suddenly occupied by four adults all day, every day. I became a full time manager of this chaos. Just feeding this house of men three meals per day required weekly menus and careful planning. Steve and I helped Ian adjust to the change in routines, extreme isolation, and the lack of education, while he was struggling with serious health issues. Jonah missed his friends, and had to celebrate turning 21 with his parents. Steve moved from a glass office overlooking New York harbor to a corner of my office/guest room. With everyone in the house, things broke and needed repair. We restructured our homes to deal with the new lifestyle. We found ways to remain sane during this isolation with outdoor dining, daily walks, weekend adventures, and a couple of driving trips. For the first few months, the television was always on in the background, so we could understand what was going on outside our front door.
In August, I wrote, “We are in the midst of a massive change in society. This may be the biggest change in human society since the industrial revolution. Please keep diaries. This is important.”
There’s no question that our lives changed a lot this year. In March, just a few weeks into this change, I wondered if some of those changes were positive. The negatives, back then, were obvious — people were losing the jobs and lives, people were lonely, nobody seemed to be in charge. But there were also some silver linings, especially in our own home. At the time, I was grateful for a slowed down life and for some quantity time with the people who I love most in the world.
While we are still not quite out of this mess, things are definitely looking up. A few of our friends and family have gotten a shot. My parents will celebrate their “two weeks, after their second shot” anniversary this week, which will put them at peak immunity. We might actually eat Easter dinner indoors at my dining room table, though we will still make some adjustments. We’re talking about flying to Florida for spring break.
At the same time, a lot hasn’t changed. Ian’s school, Jonah’s college, and Steve’s office are still closed, or mostly closed. We have not gotten any official word that those situations will change in the short term. I have a basket of masks by the front door. I don’t have vaccination dates for any of us.
Looking back on this past year, I am most grateful for the time that I’ve spent with my family. We haven’t spent this much time together since that year when Steve and I finished our dissertations and minded the new baby, which was over two decades ago. After that, Steve was at his investment job for 12 hours per day. The kids were in school. I taught at a college for a while, and then worked from home, mostly by myself. We were doing our own things for a very long time with brief together-time during dinner.
We suddenly reverted back to the old days of 50/50 parenting. Steve could help Ian with his homework and drive him to whatever in-person activities I could scrounge up for him. He took Ian for walks and doctors’ appointments. He participated in IEP Zoom meetings. On Tuesdays, he drives 30 minutes to a private tutoring center for Ian, waits in the office for two hours, and drives home — three hours of work that was previously on my column of chores. Not only did this shift some responsibilities at home, but it also meant that those two forged a tighter bond.
Cooking more at home and taking daily walks to relieve the boredom has meant that we’re healthier than we were before.
Steve doesn’t have a commute anymore, saving him 15 hours per week. That’s an entire waking day that he gained. Sure, a little of that time is spent working; I think he is putting in more hours into work. But mostly that time is his. So, he’s gardening the basement, getting exercise, helping out with parenting chores, and getting more sleep. His stress level is way down. But he is reading less, since that’s what he used do on the train into the city.
We all got along. Four adults, or nearly adults, locked under one roof for a year can either be awesome or hell. We did damn well, considering the very stressful situation. Without this pandemic, we would never have had this time with Jonah, our 21-year old. It was a little gift. I’m certain this time together has made us more connected — our family relationships were permanently altered for the better.
Sure, it’s been exhausting keeping this situation more positive than negative. Someone has to keep this family on a schedule. Someone has to make plans. Someone has to knock heads together, when the mood gets dark. But we did it. We did it.
What positive changes have happened in your life this year?