It’s been about a year since COVID-19 started making itself felt here. Patient Zero landed in Everett on January 18. It took a while, but by late February we started sensing that this could impact our lives. Assisted living facilities started experiencing the terrible toll first. Soon schools began worrying about COVID cases. On March 4, 2020, I was working from home when Benji’s school called: Someone at the school had tested positive for COVID, and they were sending all the kids home for a few weeks.
Although there’s no way to precisely say “This date is the one-year pandemic anniversary,” I think of March 4, 2020 as that day. Benji hasn’t returned to school, I haven’t returned to work, and life only got less and less normal after that.
Let’s take a moment, then, to consider a few memories from approximately one year ago, and think about what’s changed since then.
On February 27, 2020, I rode my bike home from Seattle and enjoyed the novelty of riding in light most of the way. I took this glorious sunset picture to celebrate. Since then, I think I’ve used a pannier once. I ride that bike when it’s really rainy, but I also expanded to riding in the garage in foul weather, since I don’t have to go anywhere. The concept of commuting has utterly vanished from my life, to which I say: Good riddance. If I never had to commute again, and if I rode my bike from home on routes I selected for fun rather than by necessity, I’d be happier for it.
I’m not sure why I took this picture, but March 3, 2020 was my last day in the office. Since then, I’ve visited once, to pack up my desk (my team got relocated to new desks, which none of us have seen yet) and bring home a few more personal items. Honestly, there’s very little I miss from working in the office. This is one thing I’m not in a rush to get back. Remote working works pretty well for me.
Here’s an example of something we used to do regularly pre-COVID that now feels unimaginable. In the before times, I unashamedly bribed Benji with donuts if he cooperated with getting his hair cut. Look at all the things that have changed since then: No masks. Eating indoors. People near us also eating and not wearing masks. And no anxiety about any of it.
Last but not least, on February 28, 2020, we went to the science fair at Benji’s elementary school. Huge crowds of parents and kids packed in, looking at kids’ posters. My parents and my in-laws joined us along with so many other people the gym and hallways overflowed. In this picture, Benji found his friend Owen, at Owen’s poster. Again, it’s almost hard to remember: Crowds. Touching of shared items. No hand sanitizer. No masks. No social distancing. No fear of infection or infecting.
I don’t know what the future has in store for us, and I don’t know how life will change. But I hope that one day we’ll be able to look back at these pandemic times as memories that feel as distant as those of one year ago. Today I cannot imagine riding a bus with a crowd of strangers, eating in a crowded restaurant, going to church and singing in the congregation, spending all day in an office an arm’s reach from half a dozen other people, inviting friends over for dinner, dropping Benji off for school all day, or so many more formerly normal activities. Not only can I not imagine it; I don’t want to. Those activities literally frighten me. I hope one day those won’t feel so terrifying as they do today.