It is odd to consider my previous post about the start of our social isolation and how, even with the world falling to pieces, I had such hope that we would return to normalcy by summer (even though I did not verbalize it to that extent in that post). I think, even back then, I knew things wouldn’t be “normal,” but I was still hopeful and tried to think of the possibilities summer would bring. We considered having Ryland Baptized this summer and envisioned family coming in and the joy we’d feel to see his would-be god parents. We considered traveling to California so Ryland could meet his great grandmother. Even if the travel and visits couldn’t happen, we assumed we would be swimming and hiking constantly, and yet nearly all of that has not occurred.
We have been lucky. Our area was aggressive and quick to address the pandemic. Our county had low number of cases and no local deaths through New York’s first surge. Our reopening was slow and measured, and within our home, our comfort level for going out into the world was similar. It took some time before we felt comfortable reintroducing Ryland to stores and even still, we only brought him into shops if we were going for a quick couple of items we could fit in the bottom of our stroller. We didn’t feel comfortable placing him in a cart, we didn’t feel comfortable keeping him in stores for long periods of time, and we learned it was okay to make these decisions for our family and be cautious. It wasn’t until the end of June that we felt we could safely bring him into stores, if only while in his stroller. At first, when he reentered the world of shops, he was scared and overwhelmed by the number of strangers, but he quickly adjusted.
After the Fourth of July–which in our home was spent quietly and without the fanfare of fireworks as they were cancelled and Ryland’s bedtime is at 8–there was a huge (for our area) spike in COVID cases. Students began to move into the area to take up residence in their off-campus homes and the number of people in shops and on the road increased. With newcomers not adhering to mask wearing guidelines, we began to feel uneasy taking Ryland out, even for brief errands, and have already stopped doing so.
The area hemorrhaged money due to the pandemic; many layoffs were made and many programs cut. But the good will of people seemed to prevail. Donations poured in; some community areas were reopened because of the goodness of others. The city playgrounds were reopened after a hefty donation which includes funding for sanitization of playground equipment, so we have been able to take Ryland to a playground that’s in the woods–a half mile from our community, so far enough for the local kids to not go to on their own–which has left it a private playground of sorts. For how often we’ve gone, we have yet to see another person there. We have taken Ryland to a local creek where he’s splashed in the water and we were able to remain far enough away from people to feel safe. But swimming in the lake seems impossible this summer, hiking too.
We attempted a few hikes in the early days of summer but came upon so many people who had no interest in social distancing that we felt it wasn’t worth the effort. We are, however, looking toward autumn where we hope to hike the more rural paths and do so during the week when school is back in session (in whatever matter that comes in).
Beyond COVID, life has continued on but COVID seems to have sunk into every aspect of it. We’ve tried to celebrate what we can at home: Mother’s Day, the summer solstice, the Fourth of July (sparklers!), and my birthday have all been within our family unit. We’ve slipped some fun in, but all with careful attention to detail. We visited my parents in Pennsylvania, driving straight to their home without stopping, through a tropical storm, so that we could avoid any risk of not being able to socially distance with others at rest stops; then we did a similar drive back home but this time with sunny skies. My father-in-law visited for a weekend and we had similar excitement. Stick together, stay away from others, but enjoy the time we have.
There has been a lot of talk about how we, in our area, expect the pandemic to hit a second wave in the autumn and winter. With winter so long in the Finger Lakes, many are dreading it. We know what this means, we’ve dealt with it once already: stay indoors, nothing to do, no social interactions. We have much of that built into winter, although this area is so used to snow that they still manage to have activities and the likes in normal circumstances, but winter overall and for many (here and far away) is a time to be indoors. With the threat of the pandemic, it seems all the more necessary to stay inside, but the combination of winter and social distancing doesn’t sit well for many here. We will do it to protect ourselves and others, but we doubt we’ll enjoy it.
Comparatively, last summer was incredibly busy. Every weekend and most nights during the week, we were out of our apartment and enjoying events. Concerts, walks, hikes, art. There was such a long list of activities and we only touched on the bare minimum that were offered. This summer, that’s all axed and our outings are essential errands, walks, and visits to our farm. By the end of last summer and autumn, I was so tired from being so busy I happily embraced the winter months. It was a chance to rest. But now? How will we fare in the winter months when we are already so filled with cabin fever in the dead of summer?
These considerations have hung heavily on us and we’ve looked to the winter months as something to prepare for. In this way, it’s become something of a game. We are pretend homesteaders in an apartment without our own farm animals, without a garden, but we control what we can control.
Our CSA, while expensive, was the best money spent this year. Each week we’ve had fresh vegetables and tried new ones as well, and as the season continued on we’ve had the opportunity to freshly pick items as well. Strawberries, raspberries, sugar snap peas and green beans. I made strawberry and raspberry jam, enough to last us through the winter months and beyond; I also made pickles which may not last as long as they’re quite tasty and we keep eating them like snacks. The brine from the pickles has come in handy as a marinade for chicken and fish, too.
I have gathered items to begin “tot schooling” this winter, which I hope will be beneficial for Ryland as he won’t be in daycare, but also provide a way to expend some energy when we aren’t able to go outdoors. There’s crafts and to do lists for me as well. Deep cleaning, going through stored items to see what we can donate, writing to be done, blankets to make. I am trying to view this winter as a chance to further embrace creativity, even if I am going mad from being indoors so much.
I have such a deep love for autumn, that already I am beginning to get excited at the prospect of it. However, as often as I think of the impending season it’s followed by “oh no” when I think of winter. When I consider there will be no proper trick-or-treating, no photo of Ryland sitting on Santa’s lap. Many have said, well, hope for the best, don’t think of the worst. And I only agree with that to an extent. The pandemic took us by such surprise there was a sense of panic in it all and then further upset when our world was flipped over. I would rather avoid that reaction entirely for the future. Particularly as we see the case numbers rising to be just as high or surpassing those of New York within the rest of the United States. So of course we are hoping for the best, but I feel it’s completely reasonable to consider the worst.
We plan to still get Ryland a costume and perhaps take a family walk on All Hallow’s Eve to look at neighborhood decorations. We plan to tell him all about Santa and perhaps we can find a way for him to visit in the form of asking Santa to lend his suit to Bruce. And while I prepare for autumn and winter and all that may come with it, while I recognize that fear and anxiety at the realization that those months are close at hand, I am also forcing myself to again look forward with hope while also being realistic.
We may not be able to hike our favorite paths this autumn, but we plan to discover new ones. The leaves, the pumpkins, the treats will all still be there. I’ll be writing again, something that I haven’t done as much in these warmer months because I am simply not around my computer enough to do so–as a teen I would stay up until 4 in the morning writing, but that’s a lifestyle I can’t handle with a toddler to watch. But in the winter when the sun sets early and the cold wind howls, I’m used to typing away until bedtime and I look forward to doing that again.
I am uncertain of what the rest of our summer will hold. Things have been changing so rapidly that I’ve learned to try and only take it week by week, day by day. But our day by day has looked a lot like this during the summer: wake early, take a walk in the afternoon, TV time at some point, coloring at another, physical therapy in the evenings, then personal care or watching tv in the evening. Each week we have a visit to the farm thrown in once, but sometimes twice as a family activity with a flurry of picking snacks and flowers. I’ve continued with physical therapy but instead of going weekly, it’s now bi-weekly, and come August I’ll only go once every three weeks.
Ryland has fully embraced walking and now prefers to run in the wild enthusiasm of toddlerhood. Arms thrown high, laughter spilling forth, his curls bouncing with each loud step as he rushes forward after cat, toy, or parent. He has his own language, making sounds and twisting his lips and tongue to try new noises, but a few words have clarified to reveal their meaning: cat, tree, daddy, momma, and others. He goes to his room when I suggest it’s time for a nap, he goes to the front door when I say it’s time to leave, and he helps load the washer. He alone keeps us going and reminds us that all this time at home, away from the embrace of those we love, is necessary.
This update of sorts wasn’t the one I envisioned I would make back in spring, and it certainly isn’t full of cheer, but it’s honest and true. We are doing the best that we can, much like the rest of the world, and trying to find joy and inspiration in the smallest of things. In many ways, we’ve succeeded with that entirely.
Here’s to the next quarantine update being a bit more cheerful, but then again, hope for the best and prepare for the not-so-best, right?
I hope you are all doing well, are healthy, and remember to wear a mask. 🙂