Tag Archives: COVID

Surveying our postponed lives

Last year, I had a lunch on the calendar with an old coworker set for March 12. We hadn’t seen each other since my son was born and we had lots of work gossip and life updates to share. Of course, as the date arrived, the COVID threat grew and we decided it would be safer to postpone. We pushed it back to April 30, then August 13, then again to January 13 (the worst date out of all of these), and May 12, then finally over a year later to May 26, 2021. With vaccinations and revised CDC guidelines in tow, it looks like our lunch is finally going to happen. We are not close friends or family, not in either’s inner quarantine bubble. I think we both acknowledged this and while we were looking forward to catching up we also didn’t take the rescheduling personally.

Of course, we could have cancelled, but I don’t think either of us wanted to give up on the lunch. We just wanted to be safe. Also, it was nice to have something normal on the calendar even if we knew it might have to be moved.

Many people have talked about how COVID gave them a new understanding of their closest network, who matters most in a time of crisis. I also think COVID has given us a new appreciation for the influence of a broad network of weaker ties on quality of life. There are loads of people I admire, but don’t know particularly well, who I have missed this year. I even miss strangers. The friends laughing at a table nearby, the interesting clothes people wear, the small acts of kindness on the street.

There have been far more serious casualties of COVID-19 than a lunch date or a wedding. Important communal sacraments and traditions have been postponed, some opportunities to grieve or celebrate feel lost forever. The entire experience of the pandemic will be a part of us, regardless of how we experienced it. I don’t want to forget the small things that keep a city and community moving forward during non-COVID life which has plenty of disappointment and excitement on it’s own.

One example that I have been daydreaming about lately is being in a full, buzzing coffee shop again. Since the first fall when I moved to Richmond almost 14 years ago, coffee shops have been my home away from home and I have missed them dearly. I miss real mugs, real plates, and silverware. I miss the caffeine-induced brainstorm. I miss the community board with events and vendors. And of course, I miss the eavesdropping and people watching. You just can’t fit this into a take-out container.

Sometime this summer or fall, whenever they are ready to reopen, I imagine myself in Sub Rosa with a cappuccino at the bar around 10:30 a.m. on a disastrously busy weekend morning. With myself, the Times, and who knows what former friend, neighbor, or coworker that might walk by. Croissant flakes and dirty dishes are everywhere along with the smell of chocolate, polenta, and smoke. I’m grateful we all united over COVID by staying away, but I can’t wait to see everyone and catch up on the other side.

Update: This was actually pushed back three more days because his wife was scheduled to get the COVID vaccine during our lunch window. It felt like a great end to the saga.

Serviceberry buds in COVID spring

One year ago, there were buds on the serviceberry bushes in Richmond as there are today. I didn’t notice, of course. Even if I had known what they looked like to identify them, we were too busy helping our son heal from surgery and reading the news about a virus infecting the world. The service berry bloom historically signaled the time for bodies of those who had died over the winter to be interred. It’s hard to imagine putting a loved one in the ice for months until the ground was soft enough to bring them back out for a funeral. After one year of lockdown, loneliness, denial, and all the ways we’ve inhabited this pandemic, it feels appropriate to think that we’ve also postponed our grief in the same way.

Seeing these buds feels encouraging, but also too soon. They are going to bloom any day (some already have) and provide an early meal to pollinators as they emerge. Similarly, we are emerging from COVID, searching for what aspects of life will return to fuel us in the coming months. Although we may not be ready to let go of the darkness and confusion that we’ve been inhabiting for the past year, the buds are a reminder to me that we need to start preparing ourselves to grieve and to be ready to see the good.

Sometimes it can be hard to accept that spring has come, that things are beautiful again, if you still feel cold on the inside. It can be hard to accept the next chapter when you haven’t been able to let go of the last. Burying and memorializing the dead has long been part of the process of appreciating life. It will also be important for us to bury and memorialize what we have lost in other ways, the friendships, jobs, marriages, favorite restaurants, traditions. We could also bury aspects of COVID that aren’t serving us well like fear and the compulsive sanitizing.

I am daydreaming about some kind of memorial that involves serviceberry bushes and other spring blooming natives. A memorial that is beautiful every year around the time we started the slow crawl out of COVID-19. A memorial that gets better with time, perpetuates itself, serves nature. We are still in a pandemic, but it’s time to start getting ready to not be in a pandemic some day. I don’t want to be stuck in the last year, I don’t want to pretend like it didn’t happen, but I also don’t want to miss the blooms and the berries.