Last week, on the 12th of March, I gave my class an assignment to bring in an object that reminded them of this past year. There were some interesting interpretations of the assignment. Some focused on what I would call a normal moment, a moment that might have happened in any year. For example, one person wrote about an Easter egg hunt. He didn’t comment on how it was different from other years. Maybe that’s what he liked about that day. It seemed normal.
Others chose pandemic-related objects, but positive ones. One student brought in the top of a jigsaw puzzle box, writing that she would always remember working on puzzles with her family during the shutdown. Another brought in a horseshoe crab, writing to remember a walk on the beach with her family.
I brought in the bow tie that one of my students gave to Farley on the last day of school. He (the student) jumped out of his car during our drive-by moving up ceremony, dropping off the gift bag with a chew toy inside. That bow tie reminded me of the year with our pandemic puppy, of course, but I ended up writing about how it made me think of resilient kids, the kind who found ways to care for others rather than feeling sorry for themselves.
But recently I thought of another moment that seemed to capture another feature of the year for me. It was one of the gatherings we arranged for my wife’s birthday, and it happened in January. We had done some Zoom get togethers so that Nancy could hang out with her college buddies and later with her very large family. This was a big birthday for her, so we didn’t want to let it pass without something a little closer to human contact…but, you know, social distancing.
So, in spite of the fact that it was January in New England, we invited two of her hometown friends (and one of their daughters) over for wine and cheese on the patio. I know, not something anyone would consider in any other year, right? The temperature had crept up to the high 30s (balmy!) during the early afternoon, but we had scheduled this for later. The sun had nearly set when her friends arrived, and the temperature was dropping fast. Sarah and I had set up the table so that everyone could sit safely apart. We had prepared individual cheese boards so that no one needed to reach too far or share anything. Sharing is not caring in this year of the virus.
For Christmas, I had received one of those outdoor heaters that the restaurants use. Unfortunately, everyone was sitting so far apart that only two people were actually feeling any heat. We passed out blankets as the temperature plummeted. The wine didn’t flow that freely. No, it wasn’t frozen, but I think maybe hot chocolate or tea would have been better beverage choices.
At one point I went inside to retrieve something I’d forgotten. When I returned, I paused at the door, and took in the scene. Five women, bundled in blankets, hats on heads, mittens on hands, sat around a picnic table covered with mostly-ignored frozen brie and over-chilled wine. Like diehard football fans, tailgating in frigid Green Bay, you could see their breath as they talked… but somehow that didn’t stop these friends from laughing.
No, as events go, it was not what you’d call a rousing success, but as with a lot of events in the past year, it would have to do, and it did.
Another Covid Moment. P.S. No one got sick, either.