Friday, March 12, 2021

My year in the COVID-19 pandemic bubble

Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM,
public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
One year ago yesterday, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and the world went into lockdown. We’ve been living history, in more ways than one, for the past year so I thought it important to document my experience thus far.

March 2020: I was sick the second week of March. With headlines reporting stories of COVID-19, I decided to work from home March 6 – 12. Feeling better by the 13th, I went back to the office only to discover many people were teleworking. Just in case, I brought enough work home to last for a few days. I planned to work from the office the following Monday but the news over the weekend kept getting worse so I stayed home. On March 19, my company instituted a mandatory telework requirement for all employees. That morning, I made a quick trip to the office to pick up the rest of my work and a few supplies. I set my office up in the living room while my husband, a contractor for Lockheed, worked out of the spare bedroom/office. My mantra throughout all of this has been I work with a lot of very smart people and they wouldn’t shut the building down if this wasn’t real. That first Saturday, I remember walking through the grocery store and the shelves were almost empty. You had to take what you could get. God forbid if you needed bleach wipes, hand sanitizer, paper towels, or toilet paper! Turns out, I didn’t see these items in stores for months. After that, my son and I started picking up random supplies every time we shopped – stuff that had a long shelf life. We covered the dining room table and hutch top. I remember Daddy’s kitchen table being covered with canned goods for years but it wasn’t because of a pandemic. That was as far as he got with the groceries and that’s where they stayed. We finally started clearing the table in early October since it would be needed for Thanksgiving. I also wanted to display a Christmas village on the hutch in December. By then, grocery stores were able to maintain their stock so we felt comfortable buying less food. I drove on the same tank of gas from mid-March until July 30 when we travelled to Georgia. My youngest son, who lives with us, is a Virginia ABC Store employee (state run liquor store) and was declared an essential worker. I still can’t wrap my head around that. Because he had to go to work and then come home to his “aging parents,” he stopped going anywhere besides work and the store. He’s finally eased up on that but only just recently. Like everyone else, we learned about social distancing. We had trouble at first finding masks but eventually found some. The governor issued a stay-at-home order at the end of the month. My oldest son picked up supplies from Costco for us. I started walking laps inside my house twice a day. It wasn’t much exercise but I figured it was better than nothing. As it warmed up, I cut the grass for exercise. 

April 2020: I already had a doctor appointment scheduled in April. I received an email telling me to stay in the car once arriving until they called to check me in. Then I was to go to the reception area with a mask on to get my temperature taken before entering the office. All furniture except four chairs in each corner had been removed. My doctor bumped elbows instead of shaking hands and escorted me out a side door when we were done. It just felt weird. He had always been so friendly. I decided to keep a journal to document life during a pandemic. I spent time every night labeling photos. I made good progress for a while but then stopped. I need to finish what I started before we go back to work. 

May 2020: To salute frontline COVID-19 responders, the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds toured the country together. They did a flyover in Manassas that we managed to catch from the local Target parking lot, along with a lot of other people, all social distancing from their individual cars. I planted a garden (lol, a bucket with a couple of green bean plants) as an experiment for our rabbit who loves green beans. It was fun to watch them grow. We’re now required to wear masks in public. George Floyd was killed on May 25 and the Black Lives Matter protests started shortly afterwards. Washington DC became a focal point so the news coverage was extensive. We were glued to the TV.

June 2020: My husband picked up my new eyeglasses ordered in late February. I refused to go in to pick them up when they were ready and then they shut the business down for a while. We quietly celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. I had actually been thinking about having a family party to celebrate but that wasn’t meant to be. My husband and I went to the dump to drop off yard trash. It was exciting to get out of the house! We missed our grand nephew’s high school graduation. Protests were held in Manassas. Living across the street from the police station worried me for the first time ever. Protests erupted in Atlanta after Rayshard Brooks was killed. We were glued to the TV. 

July 2020: My husband was laid off. He’d always talked about retiring early so decided this was a sign and did. Disney released Hamilton on July 3 and I watched it at least 10 times that month. On July 4, my brother-in-law and I were chatting in the front yard, waiting for the steaks to finish cooking when I spotted something flying above us. Low and behold it was a Stealth bomber! And then a string of other planes flew over. They circled around directly in front of us for 45 minutes, finally ending with the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. They were all staging, waiting until time to fly into Washington DC for the 4th of July flyover. Our steak was cold and overcooked by the time we finally ate but no one cared. It was pretty exciting. I had to go into the office to take care of business. It was weird being there, for the most part alone. Signs were everywhere reminding us to social distance. Sanitizer stations were scattered throughout. Doors had been retrofitted to open with the wave of a hand. I had a dental appointment mid-month. The doors were locked so only people with appointments could come in. They took all precautions but I still wasn’t comfortable. My travel anxiety was high as we drove to Atlanta on July 30 with a bag of peanut butter sandwiches so we didn’t have to stop for food. I had to force myself to not hug Mama when we walked in the door. 

August 2020: I watched Hamilton at least two more times in August. Loved it. I spent most of the month at Mama’s house outside of Atlanta. The first week was vacation and then I worked the rest of the month. My husband and son drove home after the first week and came back to get me at the end of the month. I was nervous about going because of COVID, but it was a trip I needed to make for several reasons. While there, I requested my mail in ballot for voting in the November elections. My son, wearing his mask, was cussed out by a lady (not wearing a mask) in a Georgia grocery store. Since he was wearing a “Virginia is for Lovers” baseball cap, she assumed he was from out of state and blamed him for bringing COVID to Georgia. Having already dealt with rude customers with regard to COVID, along with a store employee encouraging him to move along, he was able to handle the situation without it escalating into something ugly. Like many people, Mama and I worked puzzles all month. I finally hugged Mama as we left to travel back to Virginia. Now that my husband was retired, I moved my office into the spare room/office. We missed our grand niece’s wedding. Our great grand niece was born. We still haven’t met her but thankfully get to enjoy lots of online photos.

September 2020: The month started out with us celebrating the end of summer by watching the 4th of July fireworks in the City of Manassas. It brought nine minutes of joy into our lives. News reports suggested shopping for Christmas early so I did. I was done by early November. I made my one trip to Wal-Mart in the past year and couldn’t get out fast enough. I made one other trip to the drug store and the rest of my shopping was done online. The World War II planes came to Manassas Airport for another flyover. Charlie and I always enjoy seeing them so spent an evening at the airport, looking from a distance on the other side of the fence, trying to social distance from others doing the same thing. I made one last trip to the office to finish what I started in July. Haven’t been back since. We got our flu and shingles shots. I voted by mail for the first time in my life and hope I can vote that way from here on out. 

October 2020: We made another trip to Georgia for a week of relaxing. I filled my gas tank up once back home and am still driving on that same tank now. My son and daughter-in-law got two beagle puppies, our grand dogs. They bring the pups by occasionally. It’s fun to watch them grow, even if mostly through photos and videos. When Halloween came around, we didn’t pass out candy, not that anyone came knocking on our door. Lots of politicians were getting sick with COVID. We were glued to the TV. The grocery store shelves were finally well stocked again.

November 2020: We got our second shingles shot. The presidential election came and went. The drama continued but history was made. We were glued to the TV. I spent a good part of November preparing for my elf on the shelf to arrive the day after Thanksgiving. I had fun creating COVID themed photos for him. There was just four of us at the Thanksgiving Day table. The Christmas lights went up while I cooked. 

My elf Athya

December 2020: Several family members got COVID and went into quarantine. Thankfully symptoms were mild and they recovered. The office holiday party went virtual. We had a quiet Christmas at our house with six people around the table. I spent the next evening in the emergency room. After a change in meds, I’m back in business.

January 2021: I slept through New Year’s Eve. Several family members were exposed to COVID and went into quarantine. My husband and I got our first COVID vaccine. The January 6 Capitol Riot took place. I watched as it unfolded. We were glued to the TV the rest of the month. We celebrated my oldest son’s birthday with Bonchon takeout. 

February 2021: The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump took place. We were glued to the TV. It was a quiet month otherwise.

March 2021: My husband and I got our second COVID vaccine. Our arms were very sore, I got chills the first night, and we were both tired the next day but that was the worst of it. I saw the eye doctor and then spent a good half hour just chatting with one of the workers. I told her it was nice talking to someone besides my husband for a change.

Basically, I leave the house once a week to do my grocery shopping. I haven’t had a haircut or pedicure in over a year. When the time finally comes, I’ll get the pedicure first. That’s what I miss the most of anything. I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant since early March 2020. I love not having to commute, especially since I’d have to leave so early it’d still be dark. I hate wearing the masks but I wear two of them. My glasses fog up and I can’t see. My husband spends a lot of time in the shed. By now, it should be the cleanest shed in the neighborhood. My genealogy hobby has been a life saver. I’m content spending hours with my computer doing my research and writing. All in all, I can’t complain. I’ve had a job the whole time, steady money coming in, and plenty of food to eat. My family has managed to stay safe. My boys are grown so I haven’t had to deal with virtual learning. Sometimes I get tired of looking at the six rooms I’ve spent the last year of my life in but I’ll get over that. The world has been a crazy, stressful place for the past year and through it all, I feel like I’ve managed to stay calm. I’m thankful for that every day. 


  1. I keep reminding my spouse that we are the lucky ones, being retirees at this time with a comfortable income. Being in Florida, I started a pandemic garden in grow-bags on our patio.
    I could relate to much of your experience. Going for radiation treatment for skin cancer meant I had to leave the house 13 times more than I wished to.
    We are living in historic times so it's good you recorded it for future generations.

    1. Historic times indeed. Hope the treatment went well. Thanks for reading.