This year, most people I know are citing survival as their greatest accomplishment. Most of us barely went anywhere and because of that, we feel like we didn’t do anything. Honestly, I think most of us braved trials and tribulations much more difficult than we would have in a more normal year; I think “survival,” for most of us, encompasses a great many more accomplishments than a whole checklist of quantifiable goals. We had our weaknesses exposed and we couldn’t breeze past them. Some of us thrived in these circumstances, some are still struggling, and some went into denial. However we got through–those of us who are lucky enough, sincerely, to have gotten to the end of this year with our lives–I think most of us would say it was complicated. Too much to unpack in an end-of-the-year round-up. So we say, “We survived.”
This year got derailed, yes. My family took a February trip to Disneyland, when the whispers of Covid were still vague and distant. It was right about the time we got home that the first confirmed case landed in the USA, in the very hospital where I gave birth to my son seven years before. My husband had planned–for Valentine’s Day, I think, or maybe Mother’s Day, but the timeline is a bit smeary–to give me the gift of a trip to Reykjavik, Iceland. That obviously got cancelled but I got to visit Iceland virtually when Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga came to Netflix–a timely release, for me, which played on repeat for a couple of weeks.
I spent a lot of time in front of the TV, hibernating. I watched the first six seasons of Dark Shadows while crocheting an enormous, wonky blanket from all the partial skeins of yarn I’d accumulated over the years. I made the obligatory sourdough starter (Neville) and eventually left him out on the counter too long, where he molded. I rearranged my living room and dining room (now classroom) about seventeen times. I started decorating for Christmas two weeks before Thanksgiving and I didn’t regret it.
Then there was distance learning, which evolved into actual homeschooling. There was my stint with Noom (which I should really write about sometime) during which I lost about twenty pounds. There was a pretty successful NaNoWriMo. But the things that really stand out about 2020, to me, are the small things–the oddball details–that made the year truly unique for my family. For example:
My husband became addicted to scented candles. He’s been working from a desk that sits opposite the kitchen counter, in a space that most people would probably use as a sitting area, and where I usually keep a couple of candles that rarely get lit. As the holiday season approached, he started lighting these candles from time to time. Then regularly. Now we almost always have at least one candle lit. His favorite aroma is balsam.
My kids became obsessed with a TV show about math. It’s called Number Blocks and it’s on Netflix. We discovered it when Mommy needed a quick break from teaching. When I first turned it on I expected them to roll their eyes at me and ignore it but they are genuinely entertained. Now, if the TV is on, it’s probably Number Blocks. They like to play make-believe in which they take on the characters of the different numbers–my son is usually fifteen and my daughter is sometimes four or five, I have been told I’m one and my husband is one hundred thousand.
I became, for a while at least, one of those people who wakes at 4:30 am. For more than a month my body told me to get up no later than five and sometimes three o’clock in the morning. It was the first quiet, easy solitude I’d really had since the lockdown began, and I got a heckuva lot of work done. I’m hoping I can tap into that extra-early bird energy again soon.