It’s been one year today since covid officially came to San Antonio. Friday the 13th, my son’s 16th birthday, the “last” day of spring break, and the start of an entirely new world. Today, I look back on the weeks that led up to this anniversary.
March 1, 2020: My 41st birthday. That day, I walked a crowded 5K with Jason and Stephanie in the morning, and spent the afternoon with several dozen of my hiking friends at an anniversary potluck. We’d all heard of covid, of course, but other than the evacuees at a local air force base – a situation we were told would be entirely contained and kept away from the SA public – it was a far-away thing that wasn’t really affecting much of daily life at that point.
March 2: You know that whole “it would be contained and kept away from the SA public” thing? An evacuee from Wuhan had been let out of quarantine after two negative tests, though several others were still pending. You know, back when we didn’t know enough about incubation periods and how to test for covid correctly. Further tests came back positive after this woman spent time in SA. North Star Mall shut down for a day to deep clean the entire building. Thankfully, no spread came from this situation, but it was the first real scare in SA.
March 6: The boys left in-person school that afternoon for a week of spring break, not knowing they wouldn’t return to this day. Or ever, in Ambrose’s case, as it was his senior year.
March 8: I went on a six-mile hike with eight other women. At the halfway point, where we stopped at the dinosaur tracks before turning around for the return hike, a couple folks began talking about covid and offering around hand sanitizer. Some people took a squirt. Others, like me, didn’t bother. I think I even remember saying something like “I’m not worried about it.” Little did we know that it would be our last hike for months (or for almost a year, in Stephanie’s case). After the hike, Stephanie and I had an amazing breakfast at Eggspectation, which was so crowded that we had to wait outside for nearly an hour for a table. We really weren’t worried at all yet.
Note: March 8th was my “last good day,” or what my brain internalized as such. When the one-year-pandemic-anniversary posts started going up, it was on this day that I began to grieve. It wasn’t even a day when I was worried about covid yet, but my brain solidified this as The Day. (That link leads to the instagram post where I discussed said grief.)
March 11: The NBA canceled the rest of its season. This is the moment when I realized the enormity of what was coming toward us. Between the 8th and the 11th, we’d had a flurry of news stories and calls and such. Morrigan called from Kansas and was freaked out about the terrible situation in Italy. His school announced that they’d be going online only after spring break (which later turned into “online and no one is allowed to be on campus at all”). Jason was sent to work from home for the rest of the week. But it was the NBA actually canceling the season – not delaying, but canceling – that hit home. That’s when I got nervous. I still didn’t understand just how serious the situation would eventually be, or how long it would last. There have been pandemic/epidemic outbreaks quite often over the last decade or two, and none had touched us directly. As of March 11, we’d had no real problems here in SA. Maybe it would blow over, I thought.
March 12: Laurence and I went to HEB for some mid-week shopping. We knew there wouldn’t be any toilet paper – that insanity had already started – but mostly the store was well-stocked. For the last time in months. Additionally, my cousin remarked that she hoped this “would all blow over” before Jason’s and my planned cruise in May.
March 13th: This was the day that all hell broke loose in San Antonio. Friday the 13th. Our first case of covid in the city, excluding the evacuees at the base. So much changed on this day. The 5K Jason and I were supposed to run on the 14th went from “this is still happening” emails on the 12th to “this has to be canceled” emails on the 13th, due to the gathering limit that was put in place. Siclovia was canceled. Fiesta was moved to November. UIL was delayed. Libraries closed and haven’t been open to the public again since. Symphony cancelled til late April (and eventually beyond). The school announced it would extend spring break for another week while they figured out what to do. Panic-buying (other than toilet paper) began, and Jason ran out to the grocery store to see if he could get anything for our weekly trip before it was all gone (photo of the shelves that day above). He was also told to work from home “for the foreseeable future,” which eventually became “indefinitely.” He has not been in the office again since.
It’s funny to look back on that day now. The last-minute attempt to grocery shop before nothing was left. The fact that we literally went to lunch at Magnolia Pancake Haus for Laurence’s birthday ( <– ), knowing that pretty soon the city was going to shut down restaurants. (It was our last time in a restaurant in months. In the year since, Jason has been in one restaurant while traveling to Kansas to take Morrigan to school, and I’ve been inside three in rural areas after long-distance hikes. And that’s it.) The sudden change at Morrigan’s university that sent all the kids home. All the emails I started getting from companies about reduced hours, or closing stores to go online only, etc. The canceling and postponing of doctor appointments, including the dental crown Jason was supposed to get at the end of March and had to wait until May for. My hands-down most naive statement of 2020? “I canceled my upcoming chiropractor appointment – that can wait until this blows over!” Within a week, I was posting my Quarantine Diaries series, never thinking that here I’d be, still posting it a year later.
The situation had become real, but silly me still thought we’d all lock down and get things under control in a couple weeks, or at worst, months. I didn’t foresee the insanity that is mask-politicizing and covid-is-a-hoax crap, or the lackadaisical, nonexistent, and/or actively harmful response from the government at federal and state levels. Stephanie told me that she thought we’d have to go on rolling lockdowns for the next 18 months to two years until a vaccine could be developed, tested, and distributed, and I was just dumbfounded by the idea. She was right, though – well, she didn’t figure on all the stupidity either, and so thought we’d have periods outside of lockdown rather than just different levels of it. Sigh.
So that was a year ago. Today is my son’s 17th birthday – his second birthday under a global pandemic. (Pic: three-frame dance from a few days ago that we put into a color app, heh.) My middle son, Ambrose, is starting his first job today. The oldest, Morrigan, is up at school in Kansas. I’m grateful that we are all okay. I’ve known friends and family with various severities of covid, and so far, everyone is still here with us. Others have not been so fortunate, and everyone has had to adapt in one way or another. On a personal level, there are a few things that I miss so much that it gives me physical pain to think of them: my local library; in-person 5K events; having my days alone and silent; extended family gatherings; HUGS.
But it wouldn’t be an anniversary post without giving a brief shoutout to those things that have kept me sane over the last year: my hiking group (of course!!); the Real Life Ghost Stories Podcast and the corresponding facebook group, which floods my timeline with all the fun and spooky paranormal memes and gives each day some lighthearted moments; apps like Marco Polo that helped me to stay in (visible) contact with friends and family; the massive increase in digital downloads (both audio and ebook) from the library; the friends who made better masks than we could buy and who provided food and supplies the times when our family had to suddenly lock down completely; running, which gave me purpose for a long part of this year; the local government’s attempts to counteract the horrible state and federal leadership; and the incredible efforts to get vaccines engineered for us all so quickly.
I hope that by this time next year, the world is in better shape, despite the insanity that is “multiple states removing covid precautions way too early right now.” One day I’d love to eat in restaurants without fear again, and to travel, and to go on larger-group hikes, and have potlucks with my friends, and hang out at the cafe, and see movies in theatre, and browse books at the library, and see my extended family for the first time in over a year. I want to hug people, and see smiles from a closer distance than six feet, and take photos with people all clumped together instead of spread out, and never have to rely on Zoom-like programs again. None of us have gone unaffected, but it’s my fervent hope that we all make it through safely to the other side.