A Few of My Favorite Things: 2020
Silver white winters that melt into springs…These are a few of my favorite things
Throughout 2020, a sameness has permeated most days…if you were lucky. Sameness and routine have become a marker for health and well-being – each a privilege in any moment of time, but perhaps especially right now, when so many fill the hospitals and stand in line for food. I have steadfastly refused to lose sight of such privilege. But some days are harder than others, the light sometimes difficult to find within all of the repetitiveness, the uniformity, the monotony.
On those days, I have tried to dig deep to set my head straight, attempting to avoid what one dear friend called “the giving up days.” Here are a few of my favorite things in 2020, a year that speaks for itself.
1. Baking and cooking have dominated my routine, as I've scrambled for yeast and flour when supplies became scarce, tackled new techniques (Boiling water in a pan underneath the bread as it bakes! Frothing milk ten different ways for coffee!), and appreciated perhaps more than ever what it means to sit down with friends and share a meal. A Facebook group I started four years ago that focuses on Comfort Food has evolved from online community to online family – we’ve mailed supplies to one another (see the aforementioned reference to yeast), shared recipes, crowed about the New York Times black bean bake and chicken parmesan meatballs, and commiserated in all that is 2020. By best estimate, I have cooked some 290 days since last March, and it continues to give life in every way that food can.
2. Growing up in the Berkshires, I was outside more than inside for most of my childhood, and when I lived on Columbus Circle in the days before we counted our steps, I can only imagine how many I logged each week. Now, when it feels like all of the oxygen has left the house, I head out, usually alone, sometimes with a distanced friend, exploring streets and trails and woods and ponds. Gardening, apple picking, kayaking, and spending a day at the beach are all things I have done my entire life, yet now they are things I am profoundly grateful for.
3. My beloved Lewiston boys soccer team went through an enormous change this year, with Mike McGraw in the stands (when allowed) and Dan Gish at the helm. I am grateful that the community continues to update me, that athletic director extraordinaire Jason Fuller aired the games via You Tube, and that the Blue Devils finished a season unlike any other except for one thing: they were undefeated. While the Maine Principals Association wisely decided that there would be no postseason play, no playoffs, no championships, it was a gift to get to see them play in a state that held COVID-19 at bay for as long as it could.
4. Something I often say on any given day is “because students” – a phrase that those in my close professional circle know well. This calendar year has been one of the most challenging – and that is saying something as a CNR refugee. My gratitude to students knows no bounds – they endured a pivot to online learning mid-semester, one that saw them leave for spring break and never return to campus, their books in their rooms, their sports seasons unfinished. We studied sport together in a moment when there was no sport, with me staying up into the wee hours each night to record lectures and reestablish deadlines, and we finished strong, albeit exhausted, crossing the line together in May. This fall, we embarked on a bit of an experiment, holding class outside come hell or high water (sometimes literally). Their commitment to being together, to seeing one another, in the safest way possible proved to be the highlight of each week, a three-hour session that enabled each of us to feel inspired, accomplished, and – most importantly – together. Because students.
5. Heather Cox Richardson, a historian, like me, has served as a living example as to how facts and theory and analysis and a critical eye can bring comfort on a daily basis in the form of "Letters from an American." I marvel at her strength, her ability to get us what we need to understand the moments we are in almost every single day, without fail. My hat tip to her is on repeat, my gratitude, infinite.
6. My mother’s ability to ensure our family stayed together while apart showed New England ingenuity and immeasurable love. Time in the garden, meals on the patio (and now in the garage), trips to the driving range, and individual spaces at our beloved Cape Cod beach enabled us to forget, however briefly, the disaster that is 2020. While I try hard not to think about all of the things that we have missed this year, I am grateful for what we managed to safely pull off.
7. The game of tennis is something I have adored my entire life without fail (perhaps only Rowan Ricardo Phillips loves it more than I do), but between watching my daughter cultivate her crosscourt winners safely all summer and finding inspiration in Naomi Osaka’s march through the U.S. Open, I think it is safe to say I love the sport even more now.
8. As the pandemic settled around us, my abilities to read and write seemed to disappear into the ether. In no small way, the wonder that is Schitt’s Creek corrected course, my first binge watching adventure of the pandemic. The magic of the cast, the growth of the characters, the outright absurdity and hilarity of it all was exactly the juice I needed to get my own mojo back in action.
9. My neighbors are a lovely lot – always have been -- but throughout this year, as we have been spending time on front steps and patios, around fire pits and under heat lamps, they have become my own version of essential workers. It has taken a village, indeed, and always will.
10. While my entire family remains the dearest part of my world, my daughter gets a special shout out. The pandemic has been, and continues to be, hard on so many levels and in so many ways, but I cannot imagine enduring it as a young teenager. I stand in awe of her and her friends; every single day they steel themselves to sit and learn and study in their bedrooms, keeping it together more often than not, gritting their teeth and making the best of terrible things.
Farewell, 2020. May your memory be for a blessing.