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Pandemic 2022

I wanted to publish this blog post on March 16, 2022. That was the second anniversary of the first shelter-in-place order here in the bay area, and when things really hit home for us. At the time, it felt like a temporary measure, with hair salons and shops posting signs in their windows saying they were closed temporarily.

The first few weeks were scary, but for us they were also fun in a strange way. Suddenly we were all home all the time. We had an au pair living with us, so we had no problems with childcare and MJ and I just closed ourselves into our home offices to work during the day. No commutes! No travel! Just all of us hunkered down together at home for a few weeks! We played board games, cooked more, got caught up on some projects that our hectic commuting and travel life prevented us from.

Local businesses remained hopeful, and in an odd way, the community came together (apart!) to support one another.

Little did they know, “soon” would turn into over a year

I spent a lot of time during those early days wondering what the end game was. I read up on how pandemics have gone in the past. It quickly became clear, according to historical accounts, the outlook was bleak. But it’s the 21st century! We had prepared for this! Surely we had a better story than the flu pandemic in the early 20th century.

The good news is that we were better prepared for this. Vaccines were available more quickly than we would have expected in the past, largely due to a wealth of prior research that was applicable to our current circumstance. The nationwide approach was abysmal, due to shifting tides in political leanings and alliances, but ultimately most people Did The Right Thing and we prevented massive death in a lot of the more densely populated areas. The death toll was staggering and tragic, especially to those of us who’ve lost loved ones, but it wasn’t at the levels we’ve seen with historical plagues.

We quickly learned that the first shelter-in-place date would come and go, and we’d have to adjust to this new situation. It stopped being “fun” very quickly, as the weight of the situation really hit us and we started feeling isolated.

We started doing our own haircuts, some local businesses continued to have a sense of humor as take-out business picked up and they found ways to cope.

It’s hard to admit that I’ve come this far in the post without talking about how illness and death touched us, but it took about six months before I learned of a friend dying. There have since been several people we’ve known who have died or been severely impacted by their COVID-19 infection. I suspect the occurrence of long COVID is underestimated, especially in people who have other health problems. We had been cautious and mindful all along, but when it strikes you personally, there is an added layer. This has played a part in the mental anguish of the pandemic, compounded by the inability to grieve in a traditional way. How do you close the door and say goodbye when you can’t have a funeral together?

We observed holidays at home, including Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, along with Halloween and Hanukkah. I got pregnant and delivered our second child before 2020 concluded.

Our first virtual Passover Seder, in 2020

I did a couple virtual beer festivals, where a case of beer showed up at my doorstep and I loaded up the YouTube stream.

I did some virtual 5Ks, which were actually a lot of fun, and as a new mother they were ultimately the only reasonable 5K I could expect to do anyway without making arrangements for childcare. Much of the time, these 5Ks were done with the kids!

A 5K with my baby passenger!

By 2021 we had adjusted to pandemic life as much as we could. We were able to bring a new au pair into our home as the program concluded for our first, but even that was logistically tricky with continued travel restrictions. But on the whole, we continued to be very lucky that we didn’t have to deal with a lot of critical childcare problems or take risks we weren’t comfortable with, especially while we had a newborn at home.

It’s all worn on us though. I still don’t have the support I would like to live my life the way I want it. We had always planned on having help around the house so I wouldn’t be spending all of my “free” time doing chores. Before the pandemic I had a rich hobby life that has largely been put on hold because I’m overwhelmed by duties that we may otherwise have gotten help with. What was tolerable for a couple months of shelter-in-place was not going to lead to happiness in the long run for me.

The only thing that kept me sane was how truly grateful I’ve been for the closeness and time we’ve been able to have as a small family. We often have lunch together, and MJ and I can put the kids down together. Even when we have long days at work, without commutes or travel we’re still “away” less than we would have been during normal times. Plus, we we are all healthy, something we really can’t take for granted during a pandemic. We welcomed lovely little Aaron into our family at the end of 2020 and he didn’t get so much as a cold until Adam started going to preschool in early 2022.

The last quarter of 2021 offered a lot of hope around a return to normalcy. Vaccine approval came in for kids aged 5-12, and the trials for under 5 were humming along. Things started opening up as infection graphs trended down, and we even felt safe enough to have my father-in-law come visit and meet little Aaron for the first time, and to have a small outdoor birthday party for the boys. Alas, this was quickly followed by the omicron variant wave. Then the news rolled in that the clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine in children 2-5 didn’t offer enough protection, and they’re going back to trials with a three dose regimen. Instead of being hopeful that a vaccine could be out by the first quarter of 2022, we’re now looking at the middle of the year. Moderna may actually end up coming out first, and we’ll rush to be the first in line.

We’ve made it through this pandemic so far with our health and a strength and closeness forged in adversity, but I long for the life I planned on having. I want to travel, see my friends again, and get back to my projects. I want to bring my kids to all the glorious, indoor places that I also miss. Most of all, I want us all to feel safer out there.