Reflecting Pool

Reflecting Pool

Looking Back on the Pandemic*

By Maude McGovern, April 2021

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic.  Almost exactly a year later, I sat in my car on Pratt and Whitney’s unused airstrip at Rentschler Field as someone pumped a syringe full of Pfizer vaccine into my arm.  We always knew that the pandemic would end sometime.  Now for me, that feels more like a reality every day.  

Some reflections on the strangest year of my life.  (Not the worst or the most dramatic, just the strangest.)  First off, what I experienced could be labeled “Pandemic Lite.”  Being healthy, retired, married, and comfortably well-off, I was about as well equipped as one could be for what we’ve gone through.  It helped living in a place where, after initial confusion and hesitancy, masks became de rigueur.  That lessened the chances of infection as well as my anxiety.  Thank you, Governor Lamont!

At first, there were so many fears from major to trivial.  Who of the people I know would get sick?  Who would lose a job?  Who might not make it through the year?  Was I going up the grocery store aisle in the right direction?  

I planned what to do if my husband or I got sick, fretting over details such as which bedroom would best serve as the invalid’s room.  I borrowed a sewing machine, brushed up on my long-dormant sewing skills, read everything I could find on the best fabric and design for masks, and set to work.  (Sewing is like riding a bike—it comes back to you.)  I will never cease to be amazed that in the 21st century in the richest country on earth, medical staff at Hartford Hospital were grateful to get homemade masks from people like me.  I was glad to help and even gladder to return the sewing machine.

And like others, I settled into a new normal.  I learned to appreciate Zoom, especially on cold winter nights when I could simply plop myself down in my nice warm office and watch a presentation.  (Can you imagine how hard the pandemic would have been in the pre-Internet era?  Or before we had cell phones to… well, do just about everything from texting friends to calling the restaurant to say we were sitting outside waiting for our take-out order to sharing Facebook posts about sourdough bread?)  After decades of talking about seriously doing some genealogy research, I’m finally doing it.  I met a lot of neighbors especially on long summer evenings as we all strolled around.

I’ve been especially fortunate to live close to my family—we walked together a lot, shared several precious summer afternoons on the beach at Gay City State Park, swam at Globe Hollow pool.  I invited some family and friends in tiny groups to Dinners on the Deck in the summer.  When the winter holidays arrived, we met briefly in my roomy carport to swap Thanksgiving side dishes and later to exchange Christmas gifts.  I can now add “carport event planner” to my resume. 

For thirty years, I had short hair, which was easier to keep looking “corporate” during my years in the finance industry.  Growing it out was always a shaggy proposition, so I kept it short.  Until now.  Last spring during lockdown almost everyone’s hair was looking a bit unkempt—I fit right in.  Salons and barbershops opened safely, but by then I was on a roll.  I passed shaggy, bought some hair pins and elastics, and am now firmly into “long” territory.  The summer heat’s coming.  I will…?

More than a year into the pandemic, my luck has held.  I’ve heard of a couple of acquaintances who had mild cases.  No one I know has suffered economically.  Of course, everyone has struggled with social distancing, remote schooling, the whole freakish scariness of it all.  I’m very grateful for so much starting with the amazing power of scientists to create effective vaccines so quickly.  And I’m very aware of the huge losses of so many people and that there is much in our society that should be, must be changed.

In an essay last year, I likened the beginning of the pandemic and lockdown to a swiftly dropping curtain.  The ending is different.  The curtain is jerking up a little at a time, slowly, erratically.  Recently I’ve been hearing vaccinated people talk about getting together with friends.  Inside.  Without masks.  Some are starting to make travel plans.  Yet after a year-plus of being so careful, for some of us things like that feel strange, wrong—even if we know they aren’t.  We’ll get used to the new (old) ways, of course.  And the curtain will go up all the way eventually.  As for what’s behind it, what changes we’ll see…?  Well, we’ll see.  


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* This essay was recently highlighted in the April 15th issue of the One Manchester CT newsletter.