Losing A Whole Year by
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Getting second dose of vaccine, March 6, 2021 at 12:00

Wow! An entire year in quarantine, lockdown, stay-at-home, whatever you want to call it. In some ways it’s hard to believe it has been that long, and in other ways it feels like it has been much, much longer, closer to forever. My thanks to Third Eye Blind for giving me the title. Another song I considered, which also seemed an apt title, was “Impossible Year” by Panic! at the Disco. Since these songs are from 1997 and 2016, respectively, I don’t expect most of my readers to know them. I’m betting you have never even heard of either Third Eye Blind or Panic! at the Disco. In your spare time, you might want to check them out.

I have written my own Journal of the Plague Year in five chapters. I'm thrilled that this fifth chapter is the last!

In the course of this year, through Retrospect prompts, I have written my own Journal of the Plague Year in five chapters. I’m thrilled that this fifth chapter is the last! Even though it may not become a classic like Daniel Defoe’s, I’m glad that I have it to remember what this year was like at some future time when it fades to a dim memory.

The chapter titles reflect how I felt at each stage of the process.
Ch. 1 – Don’t Get Around Much Any More  [I wasn’t going anyplace]
Ch. 2 – Don’t Stand So Close to Me  [starting to worry about other people]
Ch. 3 – Long Long Time  [until quarantine is over]
Ch. 4 –Two of Us  [Thanksgiving, and constantly, alone with my husband]

When it started, exactly a year ago, I was clueless about what was in store for us. My husband and I had some masks that the fire department had given out a year or so earlier when there had been bad forest fires causing Sacramento air to be dangerously smoky, so we pulled them out. The elastic went around the back of the head and I didn’t like it, so I didn’t wear one. Then I was at a little store called Mixed Bag, and they were selling cloth masks with ear loops made by a local woman as a fundraiser. I thought they were cute, so I bought one, and that was the only mask I wore for the next several months. Did I wash it in between wearings? No, it never occurred to me.

I thought the whole inconvenience would last for a month or so. I assumed that I would be able to go to my daughter Molly’s college graduation in May, only two months away. Surely that would be enough time to get this thing under control. Remember how we were being told to “flatten the curve”? It seemed that if we could do that, the problem would be solved. Ha!

Even when the college cancelled the graduation, I held onto my air bnb reservation and my plane tickets for quite a while, because I figured if it was safe to travel by mid-May, I would go for a visit anyway, even without a graduation ceremony to attend. Of course it wasn’t safe, so I ultimately cancelled both and got my money back.

Meanwhile, we were planning a trip to see the solar eclipse that would occur on December 14, 2020, visible almost exclusively in South America. Because the best place to see it was a somewhat remote area on the border of Chile and Argentina, we booked a trip with an eclipse tour company that would handle all the logistics of getting us to the right place at the right time. We would start the tour in Santiago, Chile, and end up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Then the company offered a pre-tour extension to Macchu Picchu, so we booked our flight going to Lima, Peru instead of Santiago. They would arrange the transport from Lima to Santiago, as well as all the hotels in all three countries. I had never been to South America at all, and had always wanted to go, so I was very excited that we would be visiting three different countries. We finalized the arrangements with the eclipse tour company in February. Ironically, we bought the plane tickets on March 15th, so we obviously were not thinking about Covid at that point. We did end up getting a refund on the plane tickets, but not on the tour.

I know that some people were wiping down all their groceries before they used them or put them away, and also doing their shopping via Instacart or other delivery services in order to avoid going into a supermarket. We never did any of that, nor did we put mail or packages in quarantine for 3 days before opening them, which people were also doing. We just never took the risk that seriously. My husband was comfortable going grocery shopping as often as necessary, although at some point he did stop patronizing one store because they refused to require shoppers to wear masks.

By the summer, I finally acknowledged that the pandemic was going to be with us for a long time. It was so sad that we couldn’t have our family reunion, as we had done every summer for more than 30 years. Instead we had a Zoom of the extended family in August for my birthday. It was nice to see everyone for a couple of hours, but not the same as being able to hug them! And we couldn’t sing together, generally a favorite family activity, because with the time lag, singing just doesn’t work on Zoom.

In November I wrote about how nobody was joining us for Thanksgiving, and it would just be the two of us. I think that might have been the first time in my life that I spent Thanksgiving with only one other person. We did have a belated Thanksgiving in December, when two of my children decided it was safe to come for a visit, driving up together from Los Angeles. They both got tested before they came, not because my husband and I said they needed to (we would have gladly taken the risk), but because they thought it was important not to expose us, or each other, to Covid. They were here for a week, which was wonderful! It was the first time we had seen them since their holiday visit the previous December-January, an entire year earlier. That was the longest I had ever been apart from either one of them.

When we went to Atlanta the first week of January, it was the closest my life felt to being normal again. Of course we were wearing masks the whole time, except when we were in the hotel room or in the car. But we ate in restaurants three times, which we hadn’t done since March. We also went to the grocery story together a few times, and at home I hadn’t been in a store since March, because my husband did all the shopping. And we were around other people almost all the time, unlike at home. It was great! But then once we came home, we went back to our isolationist ways.

A silver lining of the pandemic is discovering Zoom and other platforms for meetings and appointments, including doctor visits, and realizing that most things don’t have to be done in person. There have also been a phenomenal number and variety of webinars and online cultural events from all over the country that could never have been available before. A synagogue in New York, Temple Emanu-El, has been doing fabulous programming for free all year. The first program I signed up for was a conversation about the TV show Unorthodox, between the author of the book and the star of the show, back in June. Once I was on the mailing list, I began getting notices of programs all the time. The most recent one I attended was a conversation between Hillary Clinton and Abby Pogrebin (daughter of Letty Cottin Pogrebin, one of the founders of Ms. Magazine), which was this past Thursday. A group in LA, Jews United for Democracy and Justice, has also put on some wonderful free programs, including one with Adam Schiff. I’m hoping all of this will become part of the new normal.

I would be remiss if I did not talk about my hair…. As you undoubtedly noticed in the featured image, my hair is a lot lighter than it has been in previous pictures. But you would be too polite to say anything unless I brought it up first. The hair appointment that I had in March 2020 for a cut and color was cancelled when everything shut down. I know I could have bought box dye at Target, but I decided to let it grow out and see how it looked, since nobody was going to see me anyway. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to experiment. For several months I colored the roots with a crayon called Tween Time, but after the “roots” got several inches long, that became challenging. Finally in December, with salons having been opened, I decided to get my hair cut, because it was getting too long and too bushy, and I wanted to look respectable for my trip to Atlanta. My appointment was on December 9th, and the following week the Governor ordered salons to be closed again because of a spike in covid cases, so my timing was good. My stylist cut off several inches of brown hair, and I wanted her to lighten what was left of it to match the new growth. She said it would be too damaging, and suggested doing the opposite, namely putting “lowlights” (a new term for me – the opposite of highlights) in the gray part that would make it blend in with the brown. The lowlights were only semi-permanent color, so would wash out in a couple of months. I really like the way it looks. In a few more weeks I will go in again and get the rest of the brown cut off.

And finally . . . the VACCINE is here! I got my first shot on February 6th and my second shot on March 6th, so two weeks after that, on March 20th, I will be fully vaccinated! In the featured image, you can see the needle actually going into my arm. (The 12:00 sticker on my shirt is the time I got the shot, so that the staffers would know when my fifteen minutes was up and they could dismiss me.) It did hurt going in, and the next day I was feverish and a little dizzy, but by the 8th I was feeling great. And the day after that, March 9th, the CDC said that fully vaccinated people can gather together indoors without masks! So maybe we are looking at normal life again!

More good news: Within the past week there was a graph which showed that the number of people who have been vaccinated is now greater than the number of people who have been infected. So we are really coming to the end of the story. Time to start planning a family reunion for this summer!


Profile photo of Suzy Suzy

Characterizations: been there, right on!, well written


  1. Jeff Gerken says:

    Thanks for alerting me to your previous post titled “Long Long Time”. I have always loved that Linda Ronstadt song. I still remember one morning, probably 45 years ago when that song on the clock radio woke me – I felt good for the rest of the day.
    I am planning to drive to Columbus, OH on April 5 to see my granddaughter for the first time. (My daughter won’t let me enter the house if I fly, even though I am now fully vaccinated.). Little Magnolia Anne will be 8 months old on the 6th.

    • Suzy says:

      Jeff, did you read my “Long Long Time” post, or just appreciate the title? I put links to all four of my previous Covid stories because there are so many new people on the site now who may not have read them.

      Wonderful that you will be seeing your new granddaughter next month.

  2. Great to know someone else who goes to the grocery story!

  3. Yes, yes, yes Suzy, we’re getting through it with a little help from our Retro friends!

    (BTW your hair looks great!)

  4. John Shutkin says:

    You’ve written an amazing journal, Suzy, and it really captures what this year has been like, both for you and your family personally and for so many of us. Certainly there were more downs than ups, but we really seem to be getting near the finish line, as you so well note. And, yes, Luddite though I may be in many things, I, too, have learned to embrace Zoom and all that can be done with it — albeit virtually.

    It will be exciting and, indeed, liberating to hear about your family reunion this summer, as well as other events in your and all our lives that are happening rather than not happening.

    And thank you for introducing me to a new term in my hair styling vocabulary: “lowlights.” I feel my COVID education is now complete.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for appreciating my journal, John. I think most of what I have experienced is pretty universal. I could have omitted all the details about the South America trip, but I put that in for my own benefit, so that I don’t forget.

      Maybe we should have a family reunion prompt this summer.

      • John Shutkin says:

        I think a family reunion prompt — or, perhaps more generally, a “where I visited/whom I saw first after everyone was vaccinated” prompt — would be a great idea for this summer. And it will generate stories with a much happier tone than was inevitable in response to the pandemic prompts.

        I also meant to mention that, as usual, you have come up with a perfect song title title for your story. I’ve at least heard of Third Eye Blind, but never its song “Losing A Whole Year.” Again, perfect. That said, I have seen a couple of funny birthday cards recently to the effect that the recipient did not have to add a year to his/her age this birthday because of COVID.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Suzy, you have summarized your year much as I did mine. We both were locked in and shut off from our usual pursuits. I think your lightened hair looks great. After four months with no color, I had a halo of white around my face (NO photo to prove it) and went straight to the salon as soon as mine opened last May. We, also, had to cancel overseas plans (that didn’t even make it into my story), but hope for a somewhat normal summer seems imminent.

    • Suzy says:

      Betsy, you and I are the diarists on Retro – I look forward to reading your story right after my family zoom for my sister’s birthday. I’m sure we have a lot in common, as we do in so many areas.

      Glad you like my hair. I’m surprised you don’t have any photos of yours. I was taking pictures of mine every couple of months all year to document the color change, even before I had decided whether I would stick with it after the pandemic.

  6. Marian says:

    Lowlights rock, Suzy–I had them for a while, and it’s a relief to be entirely silver-blond at this point. I do like Panic! at the Disco. This story was a perfect recap of everything a lot of us have been through in 2020. I was one of those who knew the pandemic wouldn’t be over in a month (given my background), but have been delighted with the progress we’ve made because of the vaccine. No restaurants for us yet, but in a month or so we’ll dine outside.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for your nice comments about my story, Marian. Glad to know you are hip enough to like Panic! at the Disco. I’m optimistic that we will be able to get together in the not too distant future.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    I love the picture of you getting your jab, Suzy. Also, your hair is great. Too bad for Molly and you to have had her graduation ceremony cancelled. That is the type of milestone you can’t get back. Thank you again for your trip to Atlanta. Your work there, along with many others, made a huge difference for our country and the bill that just passed should go a long way to helping get people vaccinated among other wonderful benefits.

  8. Of all the people I know, I think you missed out on the most this past year, Suzy. Those are some pretty big events! And yet, you still maintain a positive attitude that comes through in your stories. I admire that, and that you still went to Georgia, and that you’ve kept so active online, and most especially, that you’ve written it all down in such detail. As you mentioned, you and Betsy are the diarists…and we’re the richer for it.

    Love the hair!

    • Suzy says:

      Losing the eclipse trip was a heartbreaker, but if we had been able to go on that, we probably wouldn’t have gone to Georgia, so maybe it was for the best. Thanks for your kind words, Barb.

  9. Khati Hendry says:

    I did notice the hair color indeed–welcome to the club 🙂 . Among the trips cancelled this past year, we also missed going to South America for the eclipse–hope to make up for that this December though. Also share your discovery of lots of online events that maybe didn’t exist before, or I never knew, but connect and enlighten. I loved the titles of your chapters–will have to check out the contents too.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for reading this story, Khati, and I hope you enjoy my previous pandemic stories too. Glad to know that you are an eclipse-watcher! Did you see the one in 2017 visible in Oregon? Or the 2019 one that was also in South America? We almost went to Chile in 2019, but it was in July, which is winter there, so we decided to wait for the 2020 one, because December is their summer. Big mistake, as it turned out.

  10. Khati Hendry says:

    Suzy, yes 👍 indeed, I was in eastern Oregon in 2017, and Chile in 2019. Among quite a few others as it turns out. Who knows what travel will be like, but at least you won’t have to journey too far in 2024, when an eclipse path will cross the US again (and Mexico and Canada). Something to look forward to.

  11. First off, you look great. And what a thoroughgoing narrative in Episode 5. I’m struck by something about the title (and I know it’s a song): based on your experiences perhaps saying that a year was “lost” misses something. I think our Covid-influenced year displaced our usual lives. It was a substitution of experiences. Not all good, to be sure, but worthwhile. But then, I’m a glass-half-full person.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, Tom. I do feel like it was “lost.” With the exception of all the webinars I watched, and of course my trip to Georgia, I felt like I spent the whole year just waiting . . . for something that wasn’t here yet, which turned out to be the vaccine. If that makes me a glass-half-empty person, so be it.

  12. Amazing that you were still making plans for travel on March 15. By then, everything was shutting down, including my in-person classes at my university. Betty didn’t even come to our niece’s bat mitzvah on March 7th; I wore an N-95 mask on the plane and when I stayed at an Air Bnb with relatives none of us touched each other the whole weekend.
    This was a worthy summary of your own year in the pandemic. Let’s hope I don’t have to correct that to say it’s a summary of our “first pandemic.”

  13. Wow! The war and peace of daily covid life. Tolstoy for our times. I loved how the chronicle covered each element of your — and all of our — daily life. The South American trip made my mouth water, even in absentia. I think your hair looks great like that! It brings out your pandemic-wild, vaccine-crazy eyes. I was also impressed by the balance you struck between caution and ease — pragmatic, yet mellow ;-)! And, as always, written in your smooth, personable style and your discerning highlight of details from the great pandemic wasteland.

    • Suzy says:

      You were the one who called me Daniel Defoe before – and now I’m Tolstoy! I am deeply flattered! Thanks for all your wonderful comments! It’s readers like you that make me want to write more!

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