What I Want You to Know About Our Last Normal Week

It’s been a year since Covid-19 drastically changed the lives of people around the country, and all across the internet this past week people posted photos and stories about the differences of life a year ago. The last concert they attended. A group photo without masks. A trip with extended family. A grandparent holding a grandchild. One post several friends shared said, “A year ago this was our last normal week and nobody knew it.”

I am all too familiar with looking back at old images, and the strange feeling of realizing your former self in the photos had no idea of what was to come. I do this all the time with pictures of your mom from years past. It’s a way of grieving that which has been lost.

I, too, grieve the loss of normalcy of our pre-Covid life. Yet, I wonder if many people, like me, look back on the early days of the pandemic with a kind of warm nostalgia? Or is it only those of us who have lost a loved one during the course of this year? I’m not sure.

What I know is that for the eight weeks between lockdown and your mom’s diagnosis, our family withdrew from the outside world and into itself. We shared in society’s collective anxiety and fears, of course, which is why we did our part to isolate and follow the health recommendations we received, as best as we could. We worried somewhat about catching the virus but, even more so, we worried about our loved ones becoming seriously ill or losing their jobs. That anxiety nagged at us, and never really went away.

And yet, despite all that, when I think back to last March and April, I recall a quiet comfort to our new daily routine.

In the mornings we enjoyed the extra minutes of sleep afforded to us by distance learning and working remotely. After breakfast, we would try to motivate you to learn some sight words or practice counting by tens. Your mom and I laughed at the sheer chaos in your teacher’s early attempts to Zoom with the entire class of kindergartners. We took comfort knowing that whatever deficiencies existed in your daily learning were shared by all.

As the hours of the days went by, your mom and I would alternate between working and playing with you. During our downtime, we watched videos on social media of treats people were making – Dalgona coffees and homemade breads – and we tried our best to recreate them, sometimes with hilarious results. We snuck in naps. We checked Twitter. We scouted out local popups that were delivering to our neighborhood, savoring the chance to enjoy artisan pretzels and fresh bagels. We hosted Zoom meetings with the employees we supervised, then went off to build Legos with you or work together on a jigsaw puzzle.

We spent most afternoons and evenings together in the backyard, especially as the days grew hot and the house became unbearable. I pulled weeds while you made mud creations under the orange tree, and your mom watched us both from the shade of the carport. We built obstacle courses for you to get some activity, though you ended up convincing us to compete, too. We took walks around the neighborhood. You passed notes to the neighbor girl through slats in the fence.

We ate our dinners outside: salads or takeout. We played whiffle ball while the sun went down, then we’d go inside and play Wii Sports. We brought our board games out from the closet. We taught you Monopoly, your mom selling you valuable properties for pennies on the dollar to help you win. We set up Zoom dates with our friends, who all laughed at you running around shirtless and wild in the background. You FaceTimed with your grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends. You taught me how to play Minecraft and Roblox, and we tapped away on separate devices until late in the evening.

Once a week I would make a late-night run to the grocery store, always wondering at checkout if I should have bought more staples while they were in stock. When I’d return with armloads of supplies, you’d still be awake while your mom was fast asleep in your bed. The next morning she’d ask me why I had bought so much, and I was relieved to have resisted the urge to buy that second bag of flour. The day would start all over again, and we were glad to be spending our days with one another.

So, yes, it is true that a year ago was our last normal week. But, sitting here now, I think back on the early days of the pandemic that altered the lives of all Americans, including ours, when that little cough your mom was beginning to experience seemed like one of the most minor things in a topsy-turvy world full of bigger concerns. When we fought off all the uncertainties of the world around us by focusing on the certainty of our love for one another. When we learned not to take small things for granted. And when we rediscovered all the things we already had that could keep our hearts full. Considering that, I cannot say that the abnormal days were all that bad, as long as we had each other.

One Comment on “What I Want You to Know About Our Last Normal Week

  1. I’m so glad you are writing these thoughts for Evander. You capture Jaime’s spirit and the love of your family so vividly for me. He will treasure these essays as he gets older, just as I do. :). I love you.


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