Very Belated: 20 Selfies from 2020

A note from December 2021: I originally wrote this blog post at the end of 2020, but chose not to publish it. It had been such a hard year for so many families, I felt like it was inappropriate to highlight happy moments of the pandemic. Looking back a year later, I’m glad I wrote down the good memories of what was otherwise an incredibly challenging year. I’d also completely forgotten the bizarro moments from 2020: sanitizing groceries, homemade masks, and skipping Thanksgiving. Not mentioned in this post is the fact that I was pregnant in the fall of 2020 – I wasn’t ready to share that publicly by December.

Happy 2021! In what has become a blog tradition (2014, 2019), here are 20 selfies from a very strange 2020.

I also want to fully recognize that Corey and I were incredibly privileged in that we both work from home, as do the majority of our friends and family. We live in an area that takes the pandemic very seriously, which means everywhere we go, everyone is masked and we are able to safely do curbside pickups. This meant that all year, we largely didn’t see people except for friends where we agreed to shared protocols of not going out except for essential grocery trips.

January 1: Prospect Hill Park

It was such a gorgeous day on Jan 1, 2020. We had a bunch of friends crashing at our place after our annual NYE party. We made a delicious breakfast and took a long walk to Prospect Hill to welcome the first sunset of 2020.

January 19: Brazilian Steak House

We’re laughing here because we are absolutely stuffed. Kathy and Jack took us to a Brazilian Steak House after a long, snowy walk at the Middlesex Fells. Oliveria’s is a special place — it was packed, buffet-style, noisy, and we were shoulder-to-shoulder with other patrons. I would so love to go back to an atmosphere like that, but it probably won’t happen for a while.

February 9: Sugarbush Ski Resort

It makes me so sad to write this, but this was probably my last ski season until 2022. Corey, his dad, and our friends Stephany and Drew had a glorious day at Sugarbush. I had just gotten my Blizzard Black Pearl Skis (swoon!) at the end of the prior season and was having an absolute blast on them.

February 13: Selfie with Theo for Corey

We adopted Theo and Grey Cat fall of 2018. These two cats, along with their big brother Fritz the pup, are a pile of adorable fluff that follow us around the house. They have kept us company during a really challenging year. Theo has always been the “dog cat” of the house, and here’s me taking a selfie for Corey on his last work trip of 2020.

Prior to pandemic-life, “Hello I Miss You!” selfies were a normal part of our travel routine. We each traveled roughly once a month, and while we tried to match our schedules where we could, it wasn’t always possible. This trip, Corey was in NYC. We’d already heard of a contagious virus that was making its way to Europe, and Corey stepped up his hygiene game — avoided crowded spaces and washed his hands a lot, but none of us knew to wear masks yet.

February 20: Matterhorn Ski Bar

In February, we went on an annual friend ski trip in Sunday River, Maine. We rented a house and packed it full with 12 adults and 4 kids. One of our friends is a nurse and I asked her if her clinic had done any prep for this virus we’d all heard of. “No,” she said. “They haven’t talked about it at all.” There was also an awful stomach bug that went through the house that week (thank you kids!), and more than 50% of the adults caught it. Corey and I washed our hands constantly, didn’t touch our face, and we never got sick. It was good training for the months to come.

The Matterhorn Ski Bar, where this photo was taken, became a daily post-skiing pilgrimage for Corey and me, along with our friend Emily. It was one of the most fun bars I’d been to in a while – the bartenders were so friendly, we met lots of fellow skiiers, and the beer and food were good. Of all the activities we can no longer do post-pandemic, chilling out at a bar with friends after skiing is one of the things I miss the most.

Special mention: One of the highlights of our year was the time we spent at the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum. It is a world-class museum tucked away in a tiny town, and easily one of the best museums I’ve been to in a long time. Its collection of gems, minerals, meteorites, and moon rocks is so incredible, even the NYT wrote about it.

March: First pandemic grocery run

This photo was taken at 6:49am on my birthday. The world had just shut down because of a scary virus, and we needed to do a grocery run. At the time, curbside wasn’t a thing yet, and grocery delivery wasn’t really available in our area. So, we woke up super early, gloved up, and did a massive grocery run before work. We still didn’t really know much about how the virus was spread. We kept our distance, but we weren’t yet wearing masks. When we came home, we threw all of our clothes in the wash and sanitized our groceries.

That night after work, Corey baked me the most fantastic chocolate birthday cake and we had our first Zoom-celebration of 2020. We poured a glass of the Yamazaki 12-Year because it was a pandemic and it was my birthday. It brought back memories of the SARS outbreak in 2003, when my school in Singapore was closed for 2 weeks. That was also on my birthday.

April 11: Bow Market Safe Supply Market

One of our local Somerville establishments, Bow Market, was the first to set up an outdoor market. It was reservation-only. You had to wash your hands at an outdoor station when you arrived. There was chalk signage on the ground that kept everyone 6-feet apart. After being cooped at home for a month, it was a welcome respite to see our local stores again in a safe manner. We ended up going to Safe Supply almost weekly for a while.

This was also the time when masks were becoming a requirement in public spaces. We didn’t have masks, we didn’t know where to get them, so Corey sewed one (using directions from Ragmask). It was pretty good, until my sister in Hong Kong saw my Instagram Story, said “that’s not a real mask,” and immediately mailed us some.

Also, this was when things were much more scary in Asia than they were in the U.S. In the spring of 2020, I was telling my parents in Singapore: “Stay safe, don’t go outside.” By the fall, as things got significantly worse here, my parents were the ones doling out that advice to me while they were safely going out and dining out at restaurants. With aggressive contact-tracing, public health messages, and strict travel quarantines, Singapore really got things under control.

April 15: Middlesex Fells Reservation

Pre-pandemic, Saturday walks at the Middlesex Fells were a fairly common thing for us, mostly because it was such a great way to get Fritz some exercise. Post-pandemic, the trails were way too packed. So we started a new tradition: Wednesday night walks at the Fells. It wasn’t too busy, and we usually got a good sunset.

Another tradition we started in the pandemic which we kept up the entire year were virtual yoga classes with our local yoga instructors on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was a great way to get some exercise – and to force myself to stop working at a reasonable hour.

May 13: Grey Cat went into surgery

Sometime in May, Grey Cat (often called GC in our house) wasn’t doing very well. He was hacking, he was throwing up, and he was lethargic. Then one day, we discovered where all my hair ties had gone: into GC’s belly. He’d eaten 10 of them. I had to take him to the vet, but our car had just died and the new one had yet to arrive.

So, I strapped GC’s carrier to the back of my bike and walked him very carefully to our vet. He immediately went into surgery, and the next day, I had to walk a very drugged up cat home on my bike without hitting too many sidewalk bumps. He had to spend a week in a cone, but post-surgery, he’s a happy, healthy cat (and probably the cuddliest pet of the lot).

May 16: We bought a new car

Our Subaru Forester died in the middle of the pandemic. We had bought it used a few years back, and it was already starting to have some problems — not to mention it broke down in the I-93 tunnel beneath South Station in 2019. It was so bizarre… we called the non-emergency number and they said, “You’re broken down underneath South Station? Call 911!” We were out of the tunnel in 10 minutes, sitting in the cab of a tow truck, Fritz happily chilling on the seat.

Without access to a car, and not wanting to take any ride-shares or public transit, we had to shop for a new car sight-unseen. The two most helpful resources: YouTube (especially these Canadian car reviewers) and Consumer Reports. We did all of our negotiations over the phone, and within a week we had a new car delivered to our house. One of the first trips we took with it was to Ricky’s Flower Market in Union Square. We love our new car!

May 25: First human contact

After agreeing to quarantine for two weeks, we went to visit our friends Kathy and Jack in Connecticut for Memorial Day weekend. They were living in their small, 1-bedroom apartment in downtown Boston while trying to both work from home. They relocated to Jack’s parents’ house while his parents were stuck in Florida, unable to travel home due to the pandemic.

I still remember hopping out of the car that Thursday evening, yelling “HUMANS!” and giving Kathy the biggest hug ever. We spent the weekend cooking, playing games, and talking about how weird it was that we were hanging out without masks.

The other thing we really appreciated was open space. Somerville (where we live) is a densely populated, urban area where space is at a premium. Being able to see the ocean, enjoy expanses of green, and smell blooming flowers was such a treat.

Pro tip: One of the best apps we bought in 2020 was “PictureThis.” You can take a photo of any tree, leaf, or flower, and it will identify the plant for you. It made for very fun nature walks!

July 5: Cape Cod

It’s our annual tradition to spend July 4th weekend with Emily’s family, and after agreeing to quarantine and get tested we traveled to the Cape to see her family. While we missed exploring local stores and restaurants, we still got to see some fireworks and hang out on the beach. And, Fritz went for his first canoe!

July 26: Family in Vermont

We learned that it was possible to see people in 2020, but only if you planned far in advance. As long as we kept our risk low and agreed to shared protocols, it was relatively easy to spend time with Corey’s family in 2020 — especially since we both work from home. What we also learned was that we had to be comfortable cancelling at the last minute. A handful of times in 2020, we had to cancel a planned trip – either because we were uncomfortable with our level of risk (one time, we felt like we were near too many people even if we were outside), or because we didn’t agree to our friends’ protocols.

August 15: Kayaking in the Mystic River

The pandemic forced us to get pretty creative about ways to see friends outdoors. We learned that kayaking is the perfect activity because you can hang out and feel normal while still being pretty far from each other. We also went to the zoo a few times with friends! Sure, we were probably the only adults there without children, but it was a fun way to spend a weekend morning – reservations required, distanced, masked, and we got to see some silly red pandas.

August 22: Braving the Elements

Other times though, you just had to brave the weather. Our friends Eric and Elaina have a backyard in Salem, MA and we’d bring over picnic blankets and see them from a distance. But, we’ve also hung out at their house during a downpour or when the weather dropped to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Tents, bonfires, bug spray, blankets, whatever it was, we made it work.

August 28: Sunflower harvest

We had our most successful garden yet in 2020, and this year we decided to plant some “Mammoth Sunflowers.” Little did we know that these things would grow to 12+ feet tall and the flowers were bigger than my head. The flowers became an awesome conversation starter to get to know our neighbors, and we ended up sharing our veggies with our neighborhood (we had so much, we didn’t know what to do with it).

Sept 6: Corey’s 40th

For Corey’s 40th, we embarked on the longest and strictest quarantine yet in order to see his friends (who were in a shared pod for their kids). But, it was an incredible long weekend of hanging out and celebrating by the lake. Corey got both an insane inflatable hangout dock thing, and a paddleboard for his birthday!

October 18: First restaurant outing

Supporting local businesses and local restaurants became a passion for me throughout quarantine. As much as possible, we tried to shop local and eat local. I found Instagram to be the best way to stay up-to-date on what stores were doing as their offerings were changing weekly depending on how they were trying to adapt.

While we ordered takeout regularly throughout the pandemic, we had our first and only restaurant outing to Metropolis in the South End in October with our friends Jack and Kathy. We were the only table in our area, and we felt incredibly safe with hand sanitizer, masks, and lots of distance. The heater kept us warm, too. We wanted to try it again a few weeks later, but then the weather got too cold and the positivity rate got too high for us to want to try dining outside again for the rest of 2020.

November 28: On a porch in Burlington, VT

We spent Thanksgiving by ourselves because we agreed that everyone in the family had too much exposure to spend time together. However, we did travel to Burlington, VT to have a Friendsgiving lunch on Steph and Drew’s porch. Vermont in November, brrrr! But we made it work with ski jackets and warm hats.

January 1, 2021: Goldsmith Woodlands

Similar to the start of 2020, we kicked off the year with a nice long walk in the woods with our friends Jenn and Erik. Sure, it was a little different – we didn’t host a party this year, and we all had to wear masks, but I’m grateful that everyone is healthy and doing well.

Here’s to a brighter 2021!