The pandemic has been isolating, but I’ll always be grateful for one moment of community

The pandemic has been isolating, but I’ll always be grateful for one moment of community

Do you need to hear a happy story? A “so hundreds of thousands of people have died and large swaths of the country have refused to try to save lives and we’ve seen the Capitol attacked in an attempt to overturn an election but everything isn’t terrible all the time” kind of story?

So my son turned 4 early in this historic, life-altering pandemic, and obviously we had to cancel his birthday party. Oh, we had a Zoom party for his preschool classmates, with music by a local kids’ musician. But to tell a kid who was at the time regularly having us take walks past his school so he could peer in the door to be sure it’s closed that he wasn’t going to have his party, or a visit from his grandmothers, or anything, really, the first year he’d really thought ahead of time about the birthday he wanted? Oof. So we consulted our resident public health professionals (seriously, our building has two of them) and emailed everyone in our building asking for their help to make his day a little more special than a Zoom.

“Can you come out into the yard—no closer than 6 feet apart, of course—or stand on your balconies, and sing him happy birthday? In costumes, maybe?” Because his original plan had been for a costume party. Just about everyone was in, and one neighbor suggested an addition. See, our building is actually two buildings, connected by a sidewalk along a narrower strip of land. Our neighbor suggested that our son could ride his bike, in his superhero costume, from one building to the other, cheered on by his neighbors at each end.

We made that the plan. At noon on the appointed day he came out the front door of our building, and our neighbors, many of them people in their 70s and 80s and even 90s, were assembled—all carefully distant from each other—in penguin and unicorn and Little Red Riding Hood costumes, or with puppets on their hands, or wearing a big sheet of cardboard reading “U R 4,” singing “Happy Birthday.” There were decorations at ground level and on one of the balconies.

Then he rode his bike to the other building to a great cheer, and there was a man in a cat mask and a woman in western garb and a woman swathed in a sheet and wearing a witch hat and someone had strung streamers from a tree and someone took video. 

I am here to tell you it was beautiful and amazing and yeah, all things considered my kid would have liked to see his friends, but in that moment, he was triumphant, and so were his parents.

This has been a long, long pandemic, and as much as we would all like it to be over, too many people are still dying. But as isolating and draining as it has been, have you had any similar moments where people came through for you? Moments where a community came together or a loved one broke through the gloom?

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