Family Stories: 2020… It’s Been a Year!

Goodbye to searching for toilet paper and hand sanitizer… Hello to hopefully a better and healthier New Year… and we can hang our masks up… for good!

When we rang in “2020” New Years Eve, no one was wearing a mask, or even worried about the then-called “Wuhan” or “China Virus.” Day by day, things began changing, and Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee where we would be today on the last day of 2020! I’m hoping for a better 2021… as it’s been a rough year. I lost my mom on Nov. 30th… and even though it wasn’t from Covid, it was a loss. She slowly suffered the past few years from dementia, and at age 90… it was time for her to be free from suffering… time to go home to her happier times.

The Wuhan Virus soon became known as the China Virus, Coronavirus, Covid-19… and now only known as Covid! I have a few other names for it, but…!

It’s been a long year of worrying about this virus… hearing words like pandemic, be safe, quarantine, vaccine, the “new normal”… then constantly being told to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, wear a mask, social distance, no hugging or shaking hands, don’t visit your grandchildren, stay home as much as possible, no holidays with your family, curbside pickups… which I have to say I like, takeout only, standing in lines to enter a store… limit of people inside a store, 6 became the magical no. of feet to stand away from everyone, and contactless pickup… can you add more?

In the earlier part of the year we were told to wipe off our packages and groceries… making me afraid to even lay the mail on the table… or open without letting it sit for a few days. That didn’t last long with me, I just can’t live my life like this… made to feel like cattle being led to slaughter. I’ve always been skeptical about this entire pandemic… as I’ve lived through them before, and didn’t blink an eye. We all lived through the West Nile, Sars, Measles, Ebola, Bird Flu, Hiv/Aids, Hong Kong Flu… then others before my time like Cholera and Smallpox.

Posters soon appeared on store doors telling you “you must wear a mask to enter“… then arrows appeared in the grocery aisles telling you which way to walk… and stars on the floor at checkout telling you where to stand… mandating you stand 6 feet apart! Hand sanitizer was everywhere you looked… except in the aisles to buy! People counters stood at the doors… counting you in and out… as their were mandates on how many people could be inside at one time. Even at the end of the year I am still finding lines outside small stores, with signs on their doors… “only 3-5 people allowed in the store at one time.” It’s not how any of us want to live!

Everyone soon began sewing masks… even me! You can read all about my mask experiences HERE.

No one needed to even walk down the cleaning and paper aisles in the grocery stores for the longest… as they were bare to the bone! It became a hunt to even find toilet paper! Since when in my lifetime was I ever excited to score a 4-pack of toilet paper! Even though I had a supply, I still wanted more… and on the day we turned the corner in Costco and found their 20-roll packages stocked sky high… it was exciting… since when have you ever been excited to find toilet paper! Against my husband’s wishes… I bought one package… and it was guarded by employees… as you were only allowed to purchase one. People had become hoarders and some even sold paper and cleaning supplies at price-gouging prices. While you can find it all on the shelf today, it’s never fully stocked… cleaning supplies are still not as plentiful as it once was. Just the other day, someone on Facebook announced how they had bought a can of Lysol at a certain local store… you know people raced there to buy… stocking up for the next pandemic!

Restaurants were made to close except for takeout… later reopening for limited dining with plexiglass everywhere… it was like eating in a bubble, which might have been better. Who cleans all that plexiglass… and do they? More important, who became rich from selling all that? If you’ve ever bought plexiglass, you know that it is way more expensive than glass!

As I seldom shopped “in person” during this past year… those arrows never worked well with me, as I often didn’t even look down to see them… always looking up to find the aisles I needed for a quick pick up. And later, even when I did realize they were there… it didn’t stop me from going in to get what I needed. My knees were often hurting… telling me to hurry up.

Beauty and barber shops closed… and for a long time! Men’s hair grew longer than normal… along with new beards… and grey hair soon showed up in everyones roots! My husband began cutting his own hair with the clippers we had… he’ll probably never go back to the barber shop again… especially as the last time he went, the barber did a terrible job… so why go and pay for a bad haircut! We had an extra set of clippers with tools so I packed them up to send to my son, as you couldn’t find them anywhere… the newest thing was how everyone was now cutting their own hair… clippers were like gold! I’d been cutting my hair for like forever… trimming my ends was always easy for me, as having long hair was easy to cut… so why pay! Some people love going to the salon… having their hair washed with manicures and pedicures, but I must be strange, as it’s never been for me!

When schools first began closing… leaving the kids in limbo… it really hit home. Working parents suddenly panicked… how do they go to work with no daycare, and what’s going to happen to their children… would they ever go back to school… how were they going to finish the school year… would they all repeat the same grade in the fall? No one had answers! Many parents even found themselves out of work… so that solved daycare, but then there was the other problem… no job!

Churches closed, no graduations anywhere, no summer camps, no dance recitals, unemployment skyrocketed unless you were an essential worker in the health field or a grocery store. The parents that were working, juggled work with no daycare, but many turned to the grandparents for help. My house soon came alive at 7 a.m. instead of our usual waking after 8:30. My morning coffee was now shared on the couch with two squirming girls fighting over which Netflix show to watch; they quickly scattered when I changed to the news.

By April, President Trump began 15 days of Stop the Spread… and we all hoped that if we could slow, and stop the spread… things would return to normal… but it didn’t seem to be that easy. We were soon hearing and seeing how the virus was spreading worldwide, with much emphasis on Italy at the moment. Everyday they talked of the deaths… rising and rising with no end in sight! Italy was hit hard and most everyone there was locked in with curfews. We saw videos of them on their balconies singing to the world… they seemed to take their lockdowns in stride!

I felt for those who working during all this chaos, the “essential workers”… having to wear a mask every day! My daughter and son were both such people… and the mom in me still worried about all they came in contact with… but also thankful they had jobs.

I don’t know if I could have managed the mask-wearing for hours… as I often became quickly frustrated when forced to wear one! I always wore a mask inside the stores, but usually not without having to take the walk of shame… back to the car to retrieve it. Even now I still forget… and still mumble about having to wear it. Will it every stop? Every store you walk into now has masks hanging for sale… but the cleaning aisles still seem to be half empty… the aisles never look full to me anymore. 

Summer came… parents scrambled for solutions and sitters… it was a long summer worrying about what would happen in the fall… would schools reopen… how would this affect our children… when would this end!

Many beaches closed, and when they did open, they wanted you to sunbathe 6 feet apart there too! Several local towns even closed their beaches to out-of-towners, so that left us with no place to park to enjoy watching the water. We no longer lived in my husband’s “beach” hometown… so without a parking pass, we were doomed to now only be able to enjoy the scenic beach from a drive-by. Luckily we discovered a small parking area just outside their town-line that had no signs on parking… yay! We could now park at almost the waters edge and enjoy coffee or a late pizza at the beach. It wasn’t long before others also discovered our little hide-away, as many times if we came too late in the morning, those “5” spaces were taken! Bah Humbug!

Parades were canceled, no birthday parties, except for the new norm of “drive-by” birthday parades… which meaned decorated cars with streaming balloons and horns honking as they sang Happy Birthday to the birthday child standing at the side of their yard. While our granddaughters were excited to see the many cars making noise as they rode by on their special day… you could see the look on their face afterward… is this all there is? My grandchildren were being cheated out of life’s joys by this virus! What will they remember of all this at the young ages of 6 and 8? I hope they remember nothing!

I haven’t seen my granddaughters in Florida during this entire year… and it’s becoming to seem like forever! The twins there are 7 and our oldest is 10… and like the rest of us, they are confined mostly at home. They didn’t return to school like my granddaughters in Ct… as my son decided to have them remote learn for the entire school year… and I’m told they have done very well… mama bear made sure of that! School year here has been on again, off again… first returning with only two days a week… later to four days with the middle of the week being a remote day from home. I have had them at our house occasionally on their remote day and I’ve seen a big change from when they first began from home… much improvement now with their attention span!

People stopped flying, airports were empty, NYC became a ghost town, broadway shows closed, no Radio City Christmas show, no Rockettes… kids even worried if Santa would come this year? We did have the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but minus the spectators. Even though it wasn’t the normal parade of thousands of people lined up for blocks and blocks, they had many of the famous huge balloons, musical dancers, floats and marching bands… hopefully it will return next year. They filmed it ahead of time over a few days, and only on one block in front of Macy’s… making it seem kind of normal.

We ate our Thanksgiving meal alone this year… no family… just us and the couch. I’ve always enjoyed the Thanksgiving Parade, but I seem to have been the only one in my household who truly enjoyed watching, and as I was usually busy cooking, I often recorded it to watch later.

We traveled a few times during this pandemic year… I was a little scared, but I needed to check on my mom… so we went. On our April trip, I even brought wipes to clean the room… laughing, how that I now felt like Aunt Catherine… who never traveled without cleaning supplies in her suitcase; she cleaned the room immediately upon entering. I tended to slack off on our other trips… as by those times, I was just tired of living in a bubble. I’ve continued to wear my masks… but I need to live my life… and not be scared.

In traveling, I always felt like our car might be singled out at state borders… especially entering back into our home state. Some states had flashing signs on their highways telling of how you must quarantine in their state… made me afraid to even stop to eat! I had heard of some people pulled over at state lines inquiring on where were they headed, and why were they even there? I would have panicked… if we had been one of those people pulled over. In October, I had thought about taking a long weekend in Vermont, but after hearing of how they weren’t allowing anyone from my state to enter, … that ended that! you could visit for the day, but not spend the night… life was becoming more ridiculous every day!

I asked my granddaughter McKinley recently if she was happy to be back in school and no longer distance learning… “I’d rather be home on my laptop… I don’t like having to wear a mask all day.” It broke my heart to think of her having to endure the mask all day. School was a place she had once enjoyed, a place to laugh and play with her friends. Now my granddaughters go to school to only spend time in their classroom, no playground time, no lunchroom, no touching or hugging their friends. For the most part, they sit at their desks… touching nothing, or no one; on warmer days their teacher often took them to sit outside to eat lunch… that was a treat!

My granddaughters in Florida spent their entire school year “virtual” from home, as their parents decided it was best to keep them home, rather than the stop and go of in and out of school when it would shut down for various reasons. One granddaughter didn’t want to go back, one was missing her friends and one didn’t care one way or the other. But the homeschooling with mom seems to be going well as their grades are showing high marks. What will the girls remember one day from all this?

Christmas trees and lights popped up earlier before Thanksgiving this year… even farms sold out early, selling all their live trees for the first time. Everyone wanted to see lights sparkling in their homes, making them feel like there is still something normal. More outside lights went up… making you feel good inside!

All my Christmas shopping, was pretty much done online this year, mostly because I can’t tolerate wearing the mask for a long time in the store… and the knees don’t like to walk on those hard floors. I don’t think I’ll ever give up my online grocery shopping… I’m enjoying the ordering of groceries online and having them loaded in my car; now if someone could unload and put away, well that would be perfect! After working in a grocery store for over 36 years… grocery shopping has no attraction to me. I laugh when people tell me how they enjoy walking the aisles of a grocery store… are they in their right mind? I spend less by shopping online… no impulse shopping, and on the rare occasions I do venture inside, I find myself dawdling… and spending more money!

Even my yearly Christmas ornament wore a mask this year! Read about my knitted nurse dolls HERE.

New Year celebrations on TV was certainly different at the end of 2020… no crowds in Times Square this year. It was only open to health care and essential workers. I always had wanted to go, but after 911… I was afraid to go and be in that tight crowd. Even watching it yearly made me feel a little scared in knowing if something ever happened there… but the NYC police have done a great job in keeping it safe. Just be forewarned, to wear a “depend” if you really feel the need to go! Me, I think I’d rather watch the ball drop in my pj’s, on the couch… nice and warm. The one thing I yearly miss on New Years Eve is the phone call from my father. No matter where he was on New Years Eve, he always called to wish me a Happy New Year.

What confused me on this pandemic is how did this specific virus blow-up more than the past viruses… while I haven’t researched data on each one I mentioned, it did make me wonder why we didn’t change our lifestyles through the other pandemics. We never stopped work… our kids remained in school… and our holidays never changed. I did have family and friends who unfortunately contracted Covid… but thankfully with mild conditions… all recovered. The yearly flu seemed to have taken a backseat this past year… as I didn’t hear anyone talk about having the flu… and it did just make me think… and wonder! I pray all my readers have been safe this year… as it’s been a tough year for us all… in one way or another. No one was unaffected!

Wishing all a healthy and safe 2021!


To read my 15 Days Stop the Spread: Life has Changed… click HERE.
© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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2 Responses to Family Stories: 2020… It’s Been a Year!

  1. ReginaMary says:

    Happy New Year, Jeanne!

    Liked by 1 person

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