This time last year was the March Break That Never Ended.
I’d been saving my errands up for that week off, and as it became clearer that businesses were going to close and no one knew when they’d open again, I made a mad dash to fit them in: repairing the lawn mower, getting the oil changed, taking the dog in for her shots.
But my clearest memory of The Day(s) Everything Changed is when I went to one of my last in-person dance classes. The other students weren’t able to make it, so it was just me and the teacher.
“I’m not feeling very well,” she said. “it’s just a cold, though.”
I think I froze a bit.
By that point, Covid had already upended work. Seating plans were rearranged, redeployments were kicking in, there were motivational posters up in the areas where PH nurses were staffing the hotlines and kicking off contract tracing efforts.
“I don’t know, I’ve heard about this covid thing, but I’m not too worked up yet. My husband thought maybe I should cancel the class or something, but I’m sure it’s just a cold,” said the instructor.
I smiled and nodded and resolved to stay at least 2 metres away through the class, which wasn’t hard to do since I was the only one there. And it was just a cold. And probably a month later, when the classes had moved to zoom, the instructor had found her covid fear and was mad about people going to the store or on a walk without staying 2m apart and barely left her house.
Last March was eventful. My birthday was the day the first hard lockdown kicked in and all businesses were closed, and leading up to that, small changes and shutdowns drip-drip-dripped every day. Events were cancelled. Every time I went to work, more people had been redeployed, and my desk had been moved again. I remember the Prime Minister’s first public address outside Rideau, when he and his family were in isolation because his wife had been diagnosed with Covid-19, and me and my colleagues and everyone on the floor were streaming it on our laptops at our new-new-new desks, just before we were all sent to work from home ‘until further notice.’ Echo had a huge blowout fight with their dad on the very same day the province extended March Break by two weeks (ahahahahahahaha), making me a full-time single parent simultaneously with everything else. I remember a stack of library books I had no reason to finish because I had no way to return them. A sewing project that hung half-finished on the banister for a few months because I had no dance socials to wear it to. There’s plenty to latch on to, for moments that crystallize The Day Everything Changed.
But what keeps coming back to me is that small exchange at one of my last in-person dance classes: “I have a cold. It’s just a cold though, not that covid thing,” when I had just come from a workplace where everything had already been upended. And that little frisson of anxiety: Is this bad? How bad is it?
Nothing has changed much for us on the pandemic front so far this year. Echo is getting their strength and mobility back by leaps and bounds, but we are still dependent on PSWs right now, and they (rightly) won’t come in the house if either of us are exposed to or diagnosed with covid, so we still need paranoid levels of caution. I haven’t hugged a friend since last March. Echo’s ex-boyfriend visited us once for a few minutes in January, but otherwise, no one has been in the house except for Echo’s dad.
But it feels like we’re moving through 2020 in reverse: January was a repeat of December, with everything shut and Echo unable to move or get out of bed without a few adults helping them. February brought us back to November, with a bit of standing here and there and a few wobbly steps, and more time spent in the wheelchair with more comfort. March so far is like last October, with more walking inside the house and less reliance on the wheelchair, but stairs and outside walking out of reach. Still, we can see September 2020 in our sights in the not-too-distant future: limited stairs, walking outside, building up strength. Maybe by this June we’ll hit last June, and maybe by then I’ll have a vaccine, and we’ll be able to use the whole house and the backyard too and be able to get out together and have fun. I hope so–I think it’s reasonable, based on what we’ve done so far this year–but one day and one week at a time.
What I can say is that this weekend, for the first time since last November, Echo is going to their dad’s. We are all very, very excited.
I asked Echo, but they have no clear memory of The Day Everything Changed for them. I guess being stuck in the house anyway all the time would make it harder to have a singular memory to latch something so significant on to (but I’m just guessing).
How about you? What does your mind take you back to, for the moment you realized we were in for it?