Grateful in 2020

2020 is a year none of us will forget. I have thought about what the kids will remember about it all. Will they remember wearing their masks everywhere outside the house? Will they remember how much time we spent at home? Will they remember all the times I had to answer them that no, we couldn’t do that until after the virus? This has been a year of huge transition for our family, and while it has been a difficult year in so many ways, I am mindful and grateful that we have not experienced the loss that so many others have. Being grateful in the midst of the chaos of the pandemic is something I am taking away from this year, and so I thought I’d take a look back over 2020 at some of the things I have been grateful for. 

In January, our family had made the very challenging decision to move back home to New England after living in Nashville for 14 years. We were aiming to list the house in the late spring (which ended up being the summer), and so I had a list in my head of things I’d love to do before we moved. Taking the kids to the Chattanooga Aquarium was one of those things, so at the beginning of February, we had a day free and decided to go. The weather turned out to be rainy, and I considered canceling our plans. At that time, I had no idea of the magnitude of what the pandemic held in store, but I am so grateful that we went that day because I don’t think we would have made it before the move otherwise. It was a day full of fun and learning, and the kids still talk about it. 

During the worst of the pandemic in the spring, I was incredibly grateful for the beautiful weather we had, and also that we had outdoor space to play in. We spent tons of time outside. I would bring my laptop out and work while the kids played in the mud kitchen, on the swing set, or in the rain gully. We were home all the time, but our little yard saved us from going totally stir crazy.

Throughout this year, I have been grateful that the kids have each other to play with. While they still need time alone for sure, they play brilliantly together. I know they both miss their friends and being able to go to school and social events, but I really believe that this time together has bonded them in a very special way. 

We said goodbye to so many things in 2020–friends, our house, many of our belongings, and our family dog. Verbena made me crazy much of the time, but she really was a sweet little dog. When we knew it was time to say goodbye, I talked with the kids and we all had a good cry together. I am grateful that the kids have fond memories of Verbena.

There is so much of this year that feels like a blur. I somehow managed to pack or sell (thank you facebook marketplace for porch pick up) the entire contents of our house. I am so grateful for the help we had from friends–whether that was carrying heavy boxes while wearing a mask or offering moral support via zoom when I thought I had reached my limit.

Selling the house in the midst of the pandemic was an adventure all its own. My husband was mostly back at work by the time we had listed the house, but the kids and I had to find things to do while the house was being shown. We relied heavily on Panera drive-thru and then parking somewhere scenic (the Percy Priest Dam was a favorite) to eat. The kids thought it was the greatest thing to be able to sit in the way back of our SUV. I’m pretty sure there are still smears of mac and cheese back there.

The move itself was challenging, but I am incredibly grateful to my mother who sat squished in the back seat with the kids for the entire 18+ hour journey, and to my brother-in-law who drove the moving truck. We had brief but special respites–the most memorable of which was our first night stopping in the Smokies. We arrived late in the dark and pouring rain, but when we woke in the morning, we had this beautiful view of a creek right out the cabin door. My mom and the kids explored the creek for a bit before we had to hit the road. 

By the late summer/early fall when we moved up to New England, the COVID numbers were down and we were able to safely venture out a bit. We went for our annual family trip to the White Mountains. It was cathartic to be so immersed in nature. 

We took trips to the beach in Maine, and it was good for our souls to breathe the salt air and stick our feet into the sand.  

One of the great things about our move was that my kids were able to spend time with my mother in the garden. My daughter especially was enamored with the whole thing, and she would diligently help pick vegetables, bring out the compost, and pull weeds. The kids snacked on cherry tomatoes and green beans right off the plants.

When I talked about moving from the South back up North, one of the things I was heard to say multiple times was how little I missed the snow and that I was not looking forward to it at all. It turns out that I don’t know anything. I have had more fun playing in the snow and even shoveling than I ever would have thought possible. It hasn’t reached the really ridiculous cold here yet, but I have found myself enjoying being outside when it’s in the 20’s and 30’s. There really is something about the cold that makes you feel alive. The kids have had the most brilliant fun playing out in the snow. They have gone sledding, made snow angels, and eaten fistfuls of snow. My father built them a snow fort and then a snow horse that they could ride on.  

Being out in the woods in all seasons has been essential for the kids and me. I don’t know why I still sometimes resist going for walks because as soon as I am out in nature I just feel better about the world. One of the special things we discovered at one of our local trails was a group of chickadees and titmice that come to eat bird seed out of our hands. It really is magical.

Most of all this year, I am grateful for friends and family, near and far. I am grateful that we have been healthy, and I am grateful for how we have managed to maintain our connection with loved ones even when apart. If you’ve made it to the end of this now very long post, you’re probably one of those people. Happy New Year.

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