If 2020 were one of those cheesy hostage-taking action films on cable, we would be in the phase where we thought the bad guy was practically dead (vaccine found!), breathing his last raspy breath, when suddenly, his fingers started moving slowly (new more contagious variant!). It's the year that won't quit, that knocks us on the head and waits for us to get back up feebly then gives us a sucker punch. Not to mention just all the regular tragic news that happens any year: deadly explosion in Lebanon, terrorist attacks in France, Santana from Glee dying, for goodness sake!
So many of us are just over this year. Millions of families have experienced loss due to this virus or disrupted work and loss of income. Those are the biggies. But there are also the less tangible things that have changed this year.
The world got smaller.
When the first spring lockdowns arrived in many countries, we were confined to our homes or gardens- the odd trip to get groceries was practically the only outing allowed. Even with restrictions lifted, travel to my country, the US, was off limits this summer. My sister had to postpone her wedding (shout out to her and her beau, who said "oui" at the courthouse anyway). In the fall in Europe we were restricted again, not even a day trip to Belgium was authorized. And then in late October a second lockdown, (albeit less restrictive than the spring) began, and we had to trot out our paper or electronic authorizations every time we left the house.
When you know you can't do something, it makes you want to do it even more. We used to be able to get in the car and go visit another city on Sunday and not think a minute more about it. With the lockdown we were limited to 1 km (0.6 miles) around our house for daily exercise. Day trips to the UK are still out of the question. For a girl with wanderlust, this year has been frustrating. I tell my husband and students that once we can, I think people will travel like mad next year!
And so our borders have shrunk in around us this year, forcing us to appreciate what is close to home. And this second wave of restrictions has coincided with fall and winter as the days are shorter and colder. As I was working mostly from home these past two months, walking Alex to school and picking him up were sometimes my only ten minute-outings. I would take him around 8 as it just started getting light in my part of the world. I would pick him up around five as it started to get dark again.
I would imagine us hugging the earth with our feet, a bit like the illustrations in Le Petit Prince. The bare branches of the trees silhouetted by the blues and greys of the sky surrounded us.
"Come on, come on, it's dark and cold," I would tell him, as he stopped to pick up a rock that had chalky qualities and started drawing on the sidewalk for the third time. We dodged the dog poop on that one sidewalk every time. Sometimes he tired of walking and I picked him up in his yellow coat and hugged him close.
We would reach the home stretch where he recognized our street and he could walk more confidently to the front door. And so another evening would start, play time, squabbles with his sister, dinner, bedtime, and we start again the next day. At least most days I don't have to deal with a commute.
My world is smaller, and like winter, I must find comfort and beauty where I can. Like the colored rose-hips on the rose bushes or the last stubborn golden leaves hanging on a tree. We are looking inward, building strength for the next challenges and keeping hope alive. The buds are already on the trees, if we look closely. It has to get better. Even bad cable movies have happy endings.