Abbey’s Road: Remembering the COVID-19 pandemic four years later and what we’ve learned

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Around this time four years ago, I spent my days perched in a rocking chair in our finished attic-turned-makeshift schoolroom with a Chromebook in my lap while one kid played math games on an iPad, another wrote in a notebook about her latest reading assignment and the third did her best to blend in.

I was overwhelmed and frustrated by the different websites I was supposed to visit in order to check off the day’s boxes for learning, and it felt like the biggest blessing just to be able to go outside and soak in the April sun; to look up at the blue sky and be reminded that even if the world felt like it might implode at any moment (“Are there COVID spores in the atmosphere?”), I could find perspective in the open air.

These COVID lockdown-era memories have been showing up in my Facebook feed lately, and I’ve been hesitant to travel back in time to that place because, frankly, it feels a little uncomfortable.

In those days, we were doing the best we could to survive an unprecedented (in our lifetime) crisis.

With brick-and-mortar schools shuttered, we made cardboard signs and attended neighborhood parades in which my kids’ real, flesh-and-blood teachers sat in their cars, drove around the block, and waved at their students because they weren’t allowed to share the same space.

We were fighting over toilet paper, fighting about face masks, and fighting over anything we could think to fight about because we became keyboard warriors and forgot how to have civil conversations.

We were afraid. Afraid to go to the grocery store (remember sanitizing the groceries?); afraid to visit our aging parents; afraid to hold church services and gatherings because there was just so much unknown.

And despite the nice little photos that keep popping up in my memories—aa kid picking a flower or doing a science experiment, two girls having fun doing “gym” in the living room while watching a screen, the dress I made out of scrap fabric from a pattern I downloaded for free—tthere was something “off” about being cut off from the rest of society that I could feel deeply in my bones and don’t ever want to forget.

Human existence is not meant to be lived in isolation or in a bubble with a small handful of people. Community is a gift, and without it, we lose perspective, accountability, and opportunities for growth.

This aside, there were also good things: a slower pace of life and calendars with plenty of white space that afforded us the ability to have time to play board games, pursue hobbies, and fix the things in the house that we’d been ignoring for a decade.

We colored brown bags that would hold meals delivered to homeless people in our community. Teachers came and dropped off books on our front porch and drew with chalk on our driveway. We wrote cards to our friends to send them hope and encouragement. We had unstructured free time and we used it to do things we’d forgotten or neglected, like baking, sewing and exploring.

It’s been four years, and the memories keep coming. So I guess what I’m doing in this space is checking in. How are we doing with what we learned?

Because while I’m glad we’re not still fighting over toilet paper and arguing about the science behind face masks, I wonder if we still have to break through the fractures of isolation that COVID created.

Are we still checking in on one another? Are we still leaving white space on our calendars and making time for our families? Are we pursuing face-to-face conversations, giving grace for people who see things differently from us, and practicing gratitude even when it’s not our first instinct?

It’s been four years. We got through it. See? We got through it!

It might feel uncomfortable to look back, but let’s not forget what we learned. Let’s not stop growing. Let’s keep the harder pieces as memories so we can do better next time. Let’s keep the good pieces going, because I’d hate to think those months of isolation were for naught.It’s been four years. How are you doing? It’s worth taking the time to ponder.

… I think I’ll go write a few cards now.