Coming Full Circle* by
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Having, like a good number of us, already written a number of COVID stories over the past two years, such as this one and this one, I saw no need to go over already covered ground this week.  Rather, I thought I’d focus on my recent Jamaica vacation.  And my intention is not to make everyone envious (though my featured image does show my happy feet resting next to the beautiful, and very private, infinity pool and hot tub overlooking ther beachfront on Montego Bay).  OK, let’s be honest; maybe that is part of it.  But my main purpose, in retrospect (ahem), is to note that this vacation reflects, in a small, personal way, “coming full circle” on COVID as we begin its year three.

My wife and I were first invited on this trip in 2019 by her daughter and daughter’s husband (and their two lovely teenage daughters — no; that is not a typo or an oxymoron) as a combination joint 70th birthday present for us — born one week apart in 1949 — and in celebration of my retirement at the end of 2019.  Ominously, it was scheduled for April 2020.  They had booked us all into a large “villa” at a posh Jamaican resort and we went about coordinating and getting our respective plane reservations.

Then, of course, in February 2020, COVID happened.  First we discussed the pros and cons of going but, as each day went by, it became clearer and clearer that we simply could not take the trip, even if we foolishly wanted to.  The planes weren’t flying and, shortly afterwards, the resort said that it was goiing on “hiatus.” The silver lining of these events was that none of us felt as if he/she were letting anyone else down.  We found we couldn’t cancel the plane tickets and get a refund, but that the airline (JetBlue) would put our purchases into a “credit bank” that was good for up to a year.  The resort said pretty much the same thing.

Fast forward to early 2021. We adults were all scrambling to get vaccinated then, and taking the vacation still seemed an unwise risk, even if not impossible.  Happily, though not surprisingly, JetBlue extended our credit bank for another year, as did the resort.

Fast forward again to early 2022.  Things looking up — everyone fully vaccinated and boostered and the resort had re-opened and planes were flying regularly.  But one new wrinkle: the granddaughters were no longer in the same school, guaranteeing the same vacation schedule. The older one was now a freshman in college and the younger one was in boarding school.  By the greatest of luck, however, they had an overlapping week of spring break and it was within the window of our 2021 extended flight credit bank.  So off we went on March 12 for a delightful week of sun and fun. And I can’t tell you the numbert of times while we were in Jamaica that one of us spontaneously and joyously announced, “I can’t believe we finally, actually made this trip!”  Yes; we’d come full circle from 2020 — at least in this small, indulgent way.

Two further points I’d like to make, one far more serious than the other.  First, as much as we enjoyed the trip, I think we all realized how incredibly fortunate we were to be able to do so, and how insignificant our two year postponement of this posh vacation was in comparison to the tragedy that COVID has been (and, unfortunately, may continue to be) for millions around the world.  And watching the savage invasion of Ukraine by Russia on CNN each day during the trip was another grim reminder of the true crises that confront the people of the world.  Guilt, humility or sympathy?  I’m not sure the exact proportion of these I felt when considering the above, but they were all constantly with me during the trip (along with the sun tan lotion and a Diet Coke).

Second, and far less seriously, as I’ve noted before, I am a very organized person.  Not OCD, but certainly way up there on the anal retentive scale.  So, whenever I have a trip planned, I always prepare a comprehensiv tabbed folder of trip documents.  And, in recent years, I’ve also set up a parallel folder file on my computer/iPhone.  So, of course, I first prepared a manila folder for the Jamaica trip in early 2020. Here it is:


What is probably not visible is that the “22” on the folder has been pasted over a “20” that was originally there. Noticing the paste job when I took the folder from my file cabinet and put it in my suitcase several weeks ago reminded me, yet again, that this trip had been delayed for nearly two years. And, as soon as we got back home and I unpacked, I emptied that folder (and deleted the corresponding file from my computer), since I no longer had to worry about such things as airline credit banks, car service reservations and flight insurance policies anymore.


(Incidentally, for those who are similarly anal in their business and/or personal planning, a label printer is an absolute must.  Rather than turn everyone even greener with envy by showing more pictures of Jamaica, here’s a picture of my trusty label printer.)


Okay, I just can’t resist generating a little more envy, so here’s another picture from our villa looking out towards Montego Bay — simply to come “full circle” on my story from the featured image:




*It was tempting to entitle this story “The Circle Game.” But that song title has now been well referenced in other Retro stories.

Profile photo of John Shutkin John Shutkin

Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Your Jamaican villa certainly looks posh and dreamy, John. I’m organized, but just plain handwriting on my folder tabs works for me. Glad it all worked with the girls’ vacation schedules. I’m sure you had a wonderful time.

    Like you, we had purchased expensive passes, and hotel room deposits for our annual trek to that other island for the last week of June, 2020 for the Nantucket Film Festival. We’ve gone for many years. We hadn’t purchased the easily available ferry tickets (Cape Air no longer flies between the islands, or those tickets would also have been purchased). We had a similar experience. We could have gotten refunds, but figured we’d go the following year (ha – little did we dream at the start of this thing how terrible it would become), but pushed it out again another year. This year, we DO plan to attend, went to make our hotel reservations (Dan refused to call as early as I asked; found the hotel was already all booked! But they have a sister hotel nearby that would honor our large deposit, so that worked out too).

    For the moment, life is kind of returning to normal. I heard them talking on NPR yesterday, referencing Fauci speaking on ABC. His guidance was, “use your common sense”. Oh dear – it seems too many people don’t have that any longer.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Betsy. I do hope you get to that “other island,” though, knowing about the eternally frosty relationship between the two islands, maybe they won’t let you disembark regardless of COVID. Perhaps you should just sail from the mainland.

      And, yes, sadly, telling Americans to “use common sense” is not very comforting. Might as well put children in a room full of explosives and say “Now, don’t play with these.”

  2. Dave Ventre says:

    I’ve not been to the Caribbean in soooo long; so long, I had hair! Need to find an island with mountain bike rentals….

    • John Shutkin says:

      I was thinking of renting a bike in Jamaica, but then, just climbing the very steep hills up from the beach to the other parts of the resort made clearjust how difficult biking would be there. so I took a pass. And lived to tell the tale.

  3. Marian says:

    I have chosen to vicariously enjoy your trip, John, rather than wallowing in envy, however tempting that may be. Often I feel sorry for myself and get grumpy about something minor, like certain brands missing from stores or my housecleaner quitting, then need to pull myself back when I realize that we have shelter, food to eat, a reliable Zoom connection, and not having had COVID. You have expressed a balanced perspective here.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Marian. I do try to keep a balanced perspective on this stuff. I remember once being told not to complain about “First World Problems” and this was even before COVID and its global problems, so I keep that advice in mind. We are very fortunate.

      • Khati Hendry says:

        I also appreciate maintaining a perspective. It took me a long time to come to terms with opportunities to enjoy creature comforts, always mindful of how it contrasts with so much in the world, and it an ongoing project. That said, I was waiting to hear if the Jamaican vacation would be subtitled “how John got his groove back”. Good to know the family was able to revive old plans and enjoy their time together at last. The pictures are beautiful. Your self-proclaimed compulsive tendencies sound super useful for travel—I’d hire you!

        • John Shutkin says:

          Thanks so much, Khati. I’m not sure if I lost my groove, or ever got it back, but, living in the moment as we are all doing more of these days, it was a lovely time.

          And yes, I think I’d make a good travel agent, though no one uses them anymore — frankly, because of websites and anal compulsives like me.

  4. Thanx John, we all certainly share your realization of how privileged, despite Covid, we are in our comfortable lives, while others here and abroad live in fear and despair.

    And on a lighter note , I must say I’m an organized type too, and OF COURSE have a Brother label maker, couldn’t live without it!

    And I AM jealous, you lucky bastard!

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Dana. If I hadn’t stirred up a little jealousy, I would have been disappointed. Also glad that you, too, know the life-affirming importance of a Brother label maker.

      More seriously, I couldn’t agree more with your first paragraph.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    OMG, John, we have the same labeler. And I have many file folders, both physical and on my computer, on which I moved the date from 2020 to 2022. Great minds think alike. So glad you were able to take that much needed and well deserved vacation/celebration. Sadly, the world’s problems persist and taking a week off didn’t change any of that. But perhaps you are better able to cope with life.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Great minds, indeed, Laurie. Of course, the Brothers is the gold standard of labelers, so I am not surprised you would recognize that too.

      In any event, my coping mechanisms seem to be in pretty good shape these days. (I mean, what’s the alternative?) Hope yours are, too.

  6. Suzy says:

    I prefer the old Dymo labelers myself, where the strip was colored plastic and the labeler pushed up the letter so that it was white instead of the plastic color. Had a nice look AND a nice feel to it. But I don’t still have one, and to the extent I use file folders, I just write on the folder.

    Great story about finally being able to take your Covid-delayed vacation, and of course great pictures that made us all jealous!

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