One year ago today, the staff of The Mark Twain House & Museum met in our 176-seat auditorium to address the fact that this COVID-19 thing was suddenly more serious and more threatening than we had allowed ourselves, individually or collectively, personally or institutionally, to imagine. We gathered in the auditorium instead of our regular meeting space because we recognized the need to be seated far from one another. We talked about the fact that we’d be working from home for the next few weeks and ironed out as many details as we could, not knowing how very many details remained to be ironed out. I remember sitting in the very back row — extra anxious, as a recent breast-cancer survivor and long-term multiple sclerosis contender, about my potentially higher risk of succumbing to this mysterious virus — and shouting out that we should publicize our 3D virtual reality house tour as a means of remaining connected with the public during our brief hiatus.
365 days later, thousands of people have taken that virtual tour — and we’re still mostly working from home.
We’re far from unique; the same story has played out and continues to play out in workplaces of all kinds and sizes across the U.S. and all over the world. I invoke it here only as a milestone, a moment to consider what this chunk of our lives actually might mean.
I have blogged about my pandemic experience and will continue to do so, even as my second dose of vaccine looms close and lessens the urgency of my musings. I’m going to write about my stalwart neighbors and friends, my newfound hobbies, the lovely new relationships that have blossomed during the past twelve months, and the company of my aged dog and youthful cat that has sustained me throughout these crazy days.
For tonight, though, on this unlikely anniversary, I reflect on this: What if we had known, a year ago, what we were all in for? What if we had known just how much loss we would suffer, how many hours we’d spend alone, how many ways we’d struggle to stay cheerful, healthy, and productive, how much of our lives we’d miss? Would we have believed anyone who might have told us? Could we have begun to understand how much more fully we’d appreciate simple things we once took for granted, how precious the sensations of skin touching skin, arms holding loved ones, lips kissing lips would become?
The short answer is, no. None of us could ever have imagined any of this. And that’s probably a good thing. Hope, wherever we could find it and whatever form it took, kept us going. As did a certain kind of ignorance, not exactly blissful, but perhaps protective.
But I wonder. One day, when life returns to what we once knew as “normal,” will we remember what we’ve learned from this singular year we have shared? And will we adapt, evolve, change, and grow accordingly?
I’d like to think I will. What about you?