2020, I promise to remember.
I promise to remember celebrating New Years Eve with my wife Lynn on December 31st, 2019 in Tulum, Mexico. We walked from our hotel to another hotel just down the street on a beautiful, warm evening and sat by the pool. We were the only ones there, and over a delicious meal we reminisced about the year that was coming to an end. We talked about work, we talked about our daughter’s wedding that we hosted the week before, we looked forward to the year ahead.
I promise to remember the feeling of putting the finishing touches on a big, new project at work in January. I had done research, I had worked with consultants, and I was putting policy and structure in place for a launch we were planning at the end of March. I promise to remember the difficulty of adopting a different launch plan that we had to make in response to the pandemic.
I promise to remember visiting my father and my stepmother in February in California. Dad and I played Scrabble and we went for short walks around the neighborhood. Getting ready for my flight home, my stepmother gave me a box of sanitizer wipes. “We’ve been hearing about this new virus; you better take these with you.” We shared a nervous chuckle, I said goodbye, and I went to the airport.
With the virus quickly spreading, I promise to remember when I first heard rumors in March that our state may soon shut down, and that everyone would be asked to stay at home. Lynn and I went to the grocery store and stocked up on canned and frozen food. We did not know what would be happening next, but we wanted to be prepared. I bought toilet paper at Costco.
I promise to remember making the difficult decision to cancel our Passover seder. We usually welcome family and friends to our home for a big meal and the re-telling of the story of how the Jews were once slaves in ancient Egypt, and now we are free. We instead hosted a shortened seder on Zoom. In addition to our usual local guests, this year technology made it possible for family and friends from different parts of the country to attend our celebration.
I promise to remember what it felt like to wear a mask to the store for the first time. I felt a bit awkward, I felt a bit self-conscience, and I felt like I was doing the right thing.
I promise to remember how we learned a difficult lesson. “Delores” was one of our daughter’s childhood stuffed animals. A cute little monkey. With Lynn now working at home along with me, we needed someone else to blame for not making coffee, or for leaving the lights on. We had fun with Delores, and we created a minor Twitter and LinkedIn following as a result (#blameDelores), until one of our friends thankfully pointed out to us the unintended racial undertones of the “scapegoat” we had created. We quickly stopped.
I promise to remember the phone calls with my brothers at the end of April, making the sad realization that we all had to travel immediately to California to say goodbye to Dad, due to non-COVID related health issues. Lynn and I walked through an empty O’Hare airport early on a Thursday morning. It should have been crowded.
I promise to remember the grief over the sudden loss of someone so important to me. I promise to remember the anger and frustration of knowing that we would not be able to mourn together, in person, with family and friends. And yet, at the same time, I promise to remember that feeling of appreciation for technology that enabled us to feel the support and love of family and friends from near and far.
2020, I promise to remember how the organization I worked for responded to the pandemic. In a matter of weeks, they had to deal with a sudden and sustained drop in income, the cancellation of travel and programming, and a complete change to the way we work, meet and collaborate. Some very difficult decisions had to be made in a very short period of time. I believe these difficult decisions were made with the long term viability of the organization in mind, empathy for the staff and volunteers affected by the decisions, and a commitment to the continued pursuit of our mission and the ongoing support of our members.
I promise to remember the importance of music. I made the silly mistake of canceling my guitar classes because I could only take them online. Feeling Zoom fatigue, I put my guitar down, a mistake I plan to remedy with the start of 2021. On the other hand, in celebrating my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday in July, we enjoyed a socially distanced party with all of her children and grandchildren, complete with two violinists performing a selection of classical music. We had not heard live music for months, and hearing the sounds of those violins resonate through the house was truly a beautiful gift to everyone in attendance.
I promise to remember learning from the resilience of family. One daughter had to spend the first year of her marriage in quarantine, and the other had her college graduation ceremony canceled and is trying to start her career in the very worst of job markets. My wife leads a school district of several thousand students from a makeshift home office down the hall. I had the amazing honor of watching each of them make the very best of a terrible situation. It is not that they found ways to cope, it’s that they found ways to flourish. Challenges will continue, but it is heartening to know that even during these worst of circumstances, each one of them found their own way to succeed and their own way to deal with this most difficult year.
I promise to remember the power and joy of baking. Watching the chocolate syrup combine into the sugar and flour, seeing the bread rise in the oven, smelling the pie throughout the entire house. Baking for me has been educational and therapeutic. I have learned something with every new project, and I look forward to more creations in 2021.
I promise to remember, and to continue to savor, the power of connections. Whether I found myself on Zoom calls with a group of high school friends I have known for well over 35 years, or talking to a colleague who found an empty spot on my calendar, every conversation was important and valuable. I learned not to worry if I reached out first, or someone else made the call. The important thing is that we connected and that the relationship was maintained during this year when everything seemed more complicated and challenging.
Don’t get me wrong 2020, I am glad you are coming to an end. Finally, thankfully, and mercifully you are almost over. But I won’t forget you. I won’t forget what I have learned, and I won’t forget how everything has changed, maybe even just a little bit.
2021…I’ll see you soon.