It’s been one year.
I can’t wrap my mind around this whole thing. It still feels so surreal—people wearing masks to do everyday things like getting groceries and gas, losing loved ones, getting ill, staying ill. Or missing out on social interaction, family, or friends.
With this past weekend’s State Basketball in Lincoln, I was thinking about how quickly the past year went. A year ago, last week was our last “normal” week before everything really changed. It’s likely we’ll never go back to the way things were. I now watch reruns of my favorite shows, like Impractical Jokers, where they stand in crowded New York City streets and lean into strangers and whisper in their ears; share their food or a hug and think how that type of human contact between strangers may never exist again.
A year ago this past weekend, Brian, Alex, and I watched our niece play in the State Tournament. We knew the rumblings and talked about them with other people in the crowd, but we sat with others and hugged our niece and posed for pictures after the game. Then, like a couple of fools, we made our way to Valentinos on 70th and loaded up on the all-you-can-eat buffet. I typed this, lowered my head and shook it. Oh sweet, naive little McKim family, you fools. On the other hand, I’m delighted we had one final all-you-can-eat buffet.
Since Boys State Basketball last year, March 14, 2020, I’ve been keeping a journal. My migraine medication leaves me a bit forgetful, and I didn’t want to forget a moment of how strange these times were.
On March 14 of last year (according to my journal), Brian covered the Irish Boys at a near-empty Pinnacle Bank Arena. I decided to see one last movie. I went downtown to the Grand Cinema and bought myself a ticket to the 4:00 p.m. showing of Impractical Jokers: The Movie (I love them, it’s an addiction. They got me through 2020). I was alone for the first five minutes, then about eight other people showed up. A gentleman invited our group to the lobby, where he bought us each a drink and we proceeded to toast each other from our sanitized seat miles apart. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but for me, it was the best way to go into the quarantine-with a film and a toast with strangers in a theater.
Two days later, that theater closed. After the game, Brian and I went to the store to grab some essentials. It was a free-for-all. The battle for toilet paper, frozen and canned foods was on. I don’t know about Brian but, I think that’s when the reality of the situation began to sink in for me. Before leaving Lincoln, we had one last sit-down dinner in a restaurant. Had we known it was our last one, for now, a year and counting, we would have chosen wisely.
The days leading up to that weekend were our last normal days and we had no idea what was about to hit. That Saturday, as Brian and I wandered through aisles of people without masks, we were in the middle of the world, transitioning into what it is now and we had no idea. Many of us thought this would be done by summer, defiantly fall, but especially winter.
March 15, 2020. I wrote in my Journal that today was the first day that I was going to write about the virus for the paper. I put together a long informational story about COVID-19, but it was too long, so I would run it online. I had run to the store to get hamburger, frozen asparagus, Mucinex and a whole bunch of vitamin C and Emergen-C. I had to go to five places to find Emergen-C and they only had one box left. I had to stand in line at Walgreens in St. Joe for over 20 minutes because everyone was stalking up on medications. I was so scared that night after hearing everyone talking about people stocking up on supplies and being robbed that I slept on the couch and ordered cameras to put up around the house. I forgot how paranoid I got in those first few days when everything was so uncertain.
March 20, 2020. I wrote about how much we were eating out. I gained five pounds the first few weeks of the quarantine and it only got worse as the summer went on. I spent every cent of my disposable income on food. You would have thought that COVID was going to destroy all of our food. It’s funny to think about how you will react in certain situations. When I panic, I buy food.
A few days later, I drove around on a rainy Sunday morning and took photos of the churches that had closed and noted how empty the streets of Falls City looked. Even to this day, I take pictures of everything that isn’t “normal.” Signs, vaccination sites and COVID testing centers in old bank drive-thru’s. I pray that these are things that we only see for a short time and they vanish as quickly as they appeared. I hope that someday, Alex’s memory is fuzzy to the past year’s events and the upcoming year. He’s old enough that he’ll remember, just like I remember every moment of September 11, 2001, and the days and months after. But when he tells his story to his kids or family, I want him to have a clear picture of what the days were like. The nights we sat at home and played games, watched TV and talked, but also the nights that were hard and we wanted to kill each other because we’ve spent every moment looking at each other day in and day out for three months. I want him to remember the facetime calls with my sister, the notes of encouragement on Falls City Businesses windows and signs. I want him to remember all of it.
It’s been a wild year. I hope 2021 slows down and lets us enjoy everything she has to offer. Better, healthier days, hugs, family get together’s. Trips to see friends and even a good old-fashioned high five. It’s the little things.