Baby’s First Helluva Year

Did you learn what was really important this year during the pandemic?

#myblogis1 #susanstrasser #susanstrasserblog #amwriting

Part 1: Hunkering Down. When I was an undergraduate taking Creative Writing classes for my minor, a professor described our finished drafts or final copies of books, stories, and poems as our “babies.” As I reflect this month on the year that was, from October 2019 to October 2020, I reflect on my newest creation: this blog.

It took years to come to fruition, but it did!

In October 2019, I welcomed this bouncing baby into my life. I’d always wanted to do a blog. It was mildly disheartening as I embarked because my Life Coach told me that she would support my dream, and yes, that blogs still had relevance… but that podcasts and YouTube channels were much more vogue.

Oh well, I was never into doing what everyone else was!

A year ago, I was learning my new job as a bus driver at Daybreak Adult Day Services. I work a split shift, so I learned to use mid day for my writing. My riders and I marveled at the fall colors in Frederick County. Ben, the kids and I celebrated a lovely Halloween, canvasing the neighborhood trick-or-treating and piling up the candy in the living room that night. Thanksgiving came with a hike in Gambrill State Park, and at Christmas we took the kids’ new drones to the soccer field then settled in with a cozy fire that night.

After the holidays, we hunkered down (or what we used to call or think that meant before a pandemic) for a winter that never came. We watched the forecasts. We waited for significant snowfall all January? Nope! February??? Once we got an inch and a half, barely enough to sled on, so we barely did.

However, the whispers of a horrific virus like no one had ever seen before began to get louder that month(See my 2-21-20 entry, F-and-J-and-Coronavirus) These words and phrases began to strike fear in my heart: China. A cruise ship. Quarantine. Wuhan province. The fatal decision to allow the passengers to begin to return to their homes around the world after quarantine. A few cases on the East Coast. A few more on the west.

Meanwhile, my husband and I continued on our twice-a-month Date Nights. What we did not know, however, was how occasionally catching a fabulously gripping yet disturbing Oscar winning flick such as Parasite in February would be the last time in 2020 we’d go to the movies!

And by mid-March, the United States entered a state of lock down, or state or emergency as the new reality of pandemic living began.

I had seen previews, bit and pieces of Science Fiction movies about viruses like this. Silent killers. But this was real.

Friday, March 13, 2020, schools closed, and remain so. We are engaged in full time virtual learning because we have no vaccine. It could take a year or two. When the announcement was made, in all our naivete, it was made for two weeks. Then FCPS tacked on six weeks. Then it was for the rest of the year.

Then we got a Google Chromebook for Harriet to use for the remainder of the school year. She got lists of assignments and turned them in on Google classroom. We pulled Liam out of his preschool on St. Patrick’s Day, which made me incredibly sad. He had been having the time of his life at the local YMCA ELC (Early Learning Center), playing and learning hard. They brought home crafts daily! His last pictures and creations were shamrock-filled, freezing that time period on our refrigerator for over a month until I finally took the artwork down.

Okay, we can do this, I thought. It’s just for the Spring. We deal, everyone complies with Maryland’s mandates (not laws) of Phase 1 restrictions: limited leaving of your house. Hunker down and sit on your couch for a few weeks,’ were the initial type of stories I read.

Buckle down and stay home. If we could do without a few necessities in World War II, we can stay home a little more than we’re used to for a month or so.

But now I had to construct preschool for Liam! I had been a secondary education teacher for years, but was never well equipped for the younger crowd. But for my son’s sake, I had to learn. Our days were long, and I did the best I could. See My-preschooler-and-4th-grader blog from Spring.

Reconnect with your family. In Phase 1, Governor Hogan stated that mostly we weren’t to leave our houses for much of anything except groceries, fuel and exercise. Gyms were closed, but man it was time to walk more. Neighbors jogged, rode bikes, and walked dogs more, too.

Hair salons and barber shops were closed, too, which evolved into a lot of home haircutting jokes and pictures on social media.

The kids and I began taking long walks around our neighborhoods in the afternoons, and these gradually evolved into visiting local parks once or twice a week. We were so starved to get out of the house and go somewhere!

So funny how you miss that daily routine of simply getting in the car together and going to work and school together at 6:45 a.m.

And rituals like Sunday night Movie Night took on even more excitement than usual because we needed times like this even more.

God was good and had spring sprung early, too. It was fabulous to savor the cherry blossoms, dogwoods, daffodils and tulips that had burst out. It made the shock to Covid-19 life a little more bearable. Never had I noticed almost every flowering tree and shrub in our neighborhood!

By the first weeks you knew ground rules of Covid-19 or the novel Coronavirus living, or as my kids quickly coined it, “the virus.”

  1. masks if you went to the store
  2. 6 feet away from anyone that we encountered on our walks, my walk, anywhere in our neighborhood or parks.
  3. In the neighborhood, things are pretty simple. 9 times out of 10, you pass no one. And if you do, you or the other person steps down into the street. Sometimes the passersby and dog walkers do this even if they are wearing masks!

Another benefit: everyone is out in the neighborhood more. Like Ben, a lot of people are working from home. And with the massive unemployment, thousands of people around the county were home.

Meanwhile, Governor Hogan would remind Marylanders the importance of wearing masks and social distancing. He introduced the idea of “flattening the curve,” where for more services, stores, and businesses to reopen, a “downward trajectory of documented cases for 14 days” (John Hopkins University & Medicine).

We made an effort for Ben to take one of the kids to Costco or the Giant Eagle on the weekend so they’d get out a little.

The news was more depressing than usual with cities like Baltimore and New York City under siege from Covid-19. Hospitals were adding temporary shelters and tents to house patients because they were over capacity. People were dying so quickly you heard about refrigerated and freezer trucks holding the bodies until they could be buried or cremated.

Funerals and weddings were postponed because you were not supposed to gather in groups, period. But if absolutely necessary, keep it to like 4 or 5, and socially distance. The minister, the couple, maybe a witness. The deceased, the minister, 1 or 2 family members.

Date Nights got cancelled for March, then April. We all got more cabin crazy. It was essential to get outside in the yard or catch a neighbor and chat when you could.

We watched those Hopkins statistics.

Spring Break, Easter, and my birthday (4/29) came and went and that trajectory still hadn’t happened.

Regardless, Phase 1 was lifted in early May. I was hesitant to do much more than be outside for walks, flower bed work, and playing with the kids. I did schedule my first salon visit again. You were allowed to congregate in groups of up to 10, but you had to socially distance.

A picture surfaced immediately of people in Central Park, sitting in what appeared to be a spray painted grid of 6 foot marked spaces in which to soak in the great outdoors.

The newest pandemic term to emerge was curbside pickup. Restaurants could reopen our governor said, but for curbside pickup only. You began to see signs for this at all restaurants, and up and down our Market Street. Restaurants and businesses were struggling to stay open.

The kids and I learned that Frederick County Libraries had curbside pickup as well! So we’d look up books, browse online, pop the back of my Mazda open, and voila! The staff loaded our selections. I would have a silent ride home, or semi-silent as they devoured the new reading material.

About this time, my husband and I had enough of not having Date Nights, so we began having the kids go to their rooms around 7pm some Saturday nights, and taking over the living room. For us. The weather was so beautiful, we’d have the screen doors open, and the Spring evenings’ harmony of birds at twilight made hunkering down just a little more pleasant.

To be continued…

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