Thursday, March 12th was my last day working in the office. My boss instructed us to take our laptops home and review the instructions for connecting to VPN. I took only what I needed, as if for a fire drill, leaving behind the photos and tchotchkes on my desks. A few months later I'd return to clean out my desk permanently and find the edges of my daughter's artwork crinkled from the electrostatic spray cleanings.
Friday the 13th I worked from home while my kids' school district shut down for a "contingency planning" day. My co-worker texted me around lunchtime as another co-worker was walked out of the office with a box of belongings in his arms. Minutes later our boss summoned us to a conference call. "This isn't a layoff," he said.
That afternoon my school district announced they were closing for two weeks to "slow the spread." Our boss told us to work from home until further notice. I called him in a panic, wondering "how will I be able to work without childcare?"
I didn't see my parents for over a week, as we waited to see how deadly it would be, if people would just drop dead on the sidewalk. It was the longest I've gone without seeing them since we moved back from North Carolina. I remember grocery shopping that Sunday, buying a bunch of tulips for my mom and giving them to her at her front door while the kids waved from the car.
I cancelled the 40th birthday party I was supposed to throw for a friend, not realizing I'd never see her in person again.
A friend's boyfriend hooked us up with industrial-sized boxes of toilet paper and paper towels through his restaurant job. When this same friend told me she was ordering cloth headbands that could be used as masks "if it comes to that," I thought she was being overly cautious.
I waved through my window at the owner of the local toy shop as he dropped off weekly bags of puzzles and craft kits. I basked in the surreal emptiness of 76 as I drove to an indie bookstore in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia to pick up my order.
Two weeks to slow the spread became six. My daughter continued kindergarten on an iPad. I found a babysitter to come 4 or 5 hours a day so Clint and I could have uninterrupted time to work.
In June I celebrated my birthday by eating lunch in a Delaware Mexican restaurant, my first such outing since February.
One year later I'm still working from home and the time I "found" from not commuting has been absorbed into my routine. Looking at the dress clothes and shoes in my closet is like looking at a faded photograph. The first mask I bought from Etsy is long gone and my daughter will be back in school 4.5 days/week soon.
On Black Friday I spontaneously reserved a hotel room in Las Vegas for my birthday weekend, taking advantage of the sale and flexible refund policy. I haven't bought plane tickets yet, still waiting to see if we will get vaccinated in time.
When did you know everything was about to change?