One Weird Year

I still remember the last “real” staff meeting we had at school. It was the day before spring break of 2020, and nearly 100 of us gathered in the library. Together. Our principal told us to take home our laptops “just in case” this whole Covid thing exploded like some health experts feared.

There were varying levels of concern, but not a single one of us predicted it would be a full year before we saw our students in person again. Yet here we are, one year to the day that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Our family didn’t have any travel plans last spring break, but the kids and I did escape to Girdwood for a night at Alyeska. Covid concerns were swirling enough that we packed bleach wipes for the hotel room, but we weren’t yet wearing masks. It was a nice overnight getaway, but there was definitely a sense that something might be looming.

Back in Anchorage, we endured the most chaotic Costco trip of our lives. I had never seen the warehouse so packed or the lines so long. The rumors about toilet paper shortages were true, and there wasn’t a roll in site. Unfortunately, we actually needed it – not for hoarding purposes, but simply because we were running low. No luck.

The next day I had to return to Costco to pick up a prescription for Clark, which was both poor planning and fortuitous. I was lucky enough to arrive just as they were wheeling out a pallet of Charmin. I will never forget watching people swoop the stack the moment the pallet jack was released. Every pack was snatched up in an instant! I waited 20 minutes for the next pallet to be rolled out, and was able to get a package this time… without tackling anyone, I might add! I paid for this single item at the pharmacy, and felt like I had a target on my back as I carried it to my car. It seriously felt like someone might jump me for the Charmin!

Thankfully Costco got a handle on all that craziness quickly, limiting the number of people who could enter and eventually mandating masks for the safety of their employees. I only went grocery shopping once every few weeks in those early months, and Costco was by far the least stressful store to visit.

I can’t believe that was all a full year ago.

It’s once again spring break, and people are slowly starting to travel again. My news feed is filled with tropical photos that make me wince with envy, especially as I’m staring out at a freshly fallen foot of snow today. Thus far my spring break accomplishments have been limited to crossword puzzles and books, which I might be able to justify if I was lying on a sandy beach instead of my couch.

Like last year, this spring break involved a trip to the pharmacy. Miraculously, in what perhaps hasn’t been such a long year after all, this time it was to sign consent forms so Sam could receive his COVID-19 vaccine. We are so fortunate that anyone 16 and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine in Alaska (especially since he is a grocery store employee working 40 hours during this spring “break”). We hope clinical trials on those under 16 pave the way for Maggie to get her shot in the near future as well.

The past year has been filled with its fair share of disappointments, but my long-term memories will likely be of gratitude to all the public health experts who powered through to get us to this point so quickly.

Today is a cold, gray, Alaska day that doesn’t feel very springlike at all, but the sun is still out there, trying its darnedest to give us hope for a better tomorrow. We are coming out of a long winter – both figuratively and literally – and I truly believe brighter days lie ahead. This year we will see family, gather with friends, enjoy concerts, eat in restaurants, and attend sporting events. We will walk the halls of schools and sit in the seats of airplanes.

And somehow, someway, sometime… we need to get to a beach so I can justify a week filled with nothing more than books and crossword puzzles, guilt free!

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