It’s almost your birthday! Just about 366 days ago, we welcomed you with the most open of arms. Through the far reaches of the world, people celebrated your arrival with glorious abandon. 2020, we all said. We knew you ushered in a whole new era as you opened the curtain to reveal a shiny, untouched brand new decade.
And it wasn’t only a new decade, it was you....2020! So round and shiny. Two twos and two zeros. You were the numeric version of happiness...round and even and bubbly. You were that lady down the road who can match her shoes to her jacket to her front door. Symmetrical. Sophisticated. But a bit saucy.
As the early months of Winter slid slowly along, we got to know you a little better and honey darling, you were just the queen of surprise.
Through it all, through all of of your surprises, I’m not sure you ever really knew what you were doing.
You were like Aunt Rose who thought she was mailing a Sunday missal for Mass when what she actually sent in that priority post parcel was a “missile”.
Or your vegetarian friend who who meant to bring spirulina for you to try as an adventurous addition to your diet but instead, he brought “salmonella”. Poor fella.
I suppose I could sit here all day and come up with analogies that describe how, three months after your arrival in our lives, a fickle little virus called SARS-CoV-2, affectionately known as the coronavirus, arrived with you. And it is still with us.
Let’s lay it on the line here, 2020. There are many people out there who are cross with you. They are fuming and can’t wait to see you rising into the sky tonight amidst a flurry of fireworks. There are many who feel lost amidst these uncertain times. Businesses have closed. Families have lost their homes and jobs People have lost their lives. I have to say that again. Almost two million people have lost their lives.
We have lived alongside COVID-19 for almost ten months. We have carried this virus around, reluctantly. Without our movement, it simply doesn't move. We are host families in an exchange program we didn’t sign up for.
I’m not writing this letter to you to be cruel, 2020. I’m really not.
Because you brought goodness to us, too
All you had to do was look on social media for five minutes in April to see that as much as we resisted, you were already changing our lives.
People who had never dipped their hands into the Earth before were growing carrots the size of barrels.We were learning to play new instruments, mastering foreign languages, writing first novels and in some cases, quite beautifully, we were simply doing nothing at all. In essence, we were getting to know ourselves a little better. Someone out there stopped being an accountant and starting playing the organ for a living while others stopped playing the organ and went for a long overdue nap in the sun.
We spent time with our families and friends. In some instances, that meant visits to the yard or driveway when the Spring evenings started to get longer and warmer. It meant video chats and long overdue phone calls. For those who could be physically together, there was baking of bread and playing crazy 8s, reigniting connections and tightening bonds.
Let's not forget, 2020, you were the impetus for working from home...something imaginative countries have been doing for years!
We were blessed to meet Dr. Fitzgerald and her A team, listening to her each day as she gently guided us towards good decisions and a brighter Covid-free future… all while wearing the most decadent of scarves.
You even expanded our vocabulary, 2020. Where would we be without the words “unprecedented” and “pivot” and my personal fave “bubble”!
As your time with us started to come to a close, we started to see positive movement throughout the world towards a more loving, authentic type of leadership.
Very importantly, front line workers, already heroes, showed the world the true meaning of sacrifice as they either tirelessly fought to keep you at bay, tested to see if you had found us or treated us when you invaded. Often times, the lowest paid were putting their own lives on the line in this epic battle for life.
What did I learn from you, 2020? So many things… That bushy eyebrows and greying hair do not signal the end of the world, that buying lavish amounts of tea lights makes us happy (along with lighting them all over the house), that eating in a bustling restaurant among large groups of people will forever more be a luxury, that I will never take my little office in Placentia or my Cape Shore drive for granted, that my evening visits are an essential part of who I am, that Fr. Frank's Masses and Holy Hours were a saving grace, and that I love a real, warm embracing hug.
But alas, darling, you are on your way out and coming behind you is 2021.
2021, your modest descendent, will be a little more reasonable and tidy, I think. The last time we had two consecutive numbers in one year was 1920. Before that, 1819. Next, it will be 2122.
And great things happened in 1920. Banting started to make his first monumental discoveries around the treatment of diabetes. The very spirited Joan of Arc was canonized. Mahatma Ghandi began his revolution of peace in India. Our very own dashing Pierre Burton was born. And quite notably, the Spanish flu finally ended.
So here we are 2020, saying goodbye. I feel blessed to have lived in a time that allowed me to know you. You have taught me much. Later today, I will open up that big Happiness Jar and empty it's notes only to find hundreds of happy moments that existed within your boundaries.
Thank you for your lessons and as we say goodbye, may embrace this New Year with hope, peace, trust in God and love and, as the mystic Rilke asks, let us welcome a new year full of good things that have never been. Amen.