Dinner at Madeo – March 2020

Welcome to March, 2021. I hope you’ll take a moment to pause and give yourself a pat on the back for making it through a whole year during what may have been twelve of the hardest months in our lives. We all had a different burden to bear and our limits were tested in ways we never imagined or predicted a year ago. If you live alone, you might have suffered extreme loneliness and isolation. If you live with your family, you might have gone crazy from the lack of space and privacy. Or maybe you live in a multi-generational home which provided its own level of anxiety since those households often brought about a heightened increase of Covid transmissions. Maybe you lost someone you loved this year. If so, my heart goes out to you.

There are moments in history that change the world forever. The early days of March 2020, (the time before Covid came on with a vengeance), are forever ingrained in my mind. March 1 is my mother-in-law’s birthday and last year we had a bunch of family members over for dinner. Thinking about that night now, remembering how we were sitting inside with the doors closed, blowing out candles on cake, posing closely for photographs suddenly feels so reckless and dangerous. Obviously, this was before masks or any mention of Covid so we didn’t realize what we were doing was risky. We had heard rumblings about a virus in China and Europe and saw on the news what was happening in other parts of the world but it all felt so remote. A friend with a business in Italy told us we should start stocking up on food just in case something were to happen in Los Angeles. We bought a few cans of chili and extra boxes of pasta but didn’t really dwell on it too much, just stuck some nonperishables on the pantry shelf.

The weekend following that birthday dinner, March 8, we had another party. This time it was a big family tea at our house. More relatives, more food and indoor socializing, but in just one week, this novel corona virus was gaining speed and getting much closer. Two of our sons were in school at the Geffen Academy at UCLA and there started to be murmurings that patients at UCLA were infected, maybe one or two college students had it and would the entire campus have to close down as a precaution? Would that even be possible to do? So we squeezed in that tea at our house, but the disease was definitely part of the conversation and there was a sense of nervousness and dread that this virus was moving at a faster pace than we had originally thought. March 12, a Thursday, our Geffen boys were told to go home and expect to be away from campus for at least two weeks. Our third son, a student at Mirman, was told to do the same. Two weeks have turned into a year and the three boys haven’t been in school at either campus since that day last March. Our middle son graduated from Geffen and started Hamilton High in the midst of all this and has yet to meet new classmates in person or step foot onto his new campus.

March 13, 2020 (Friday the 13th, in fact) we snuck out to dinner with friends. Nothing had officially been shut down yet and the risks of dining indoors were not really known at that point. We went to one of our favorite restaurants, ate and drank with gusto, laughed and enjoyed what has now become known as our version of The Last Supper. Looking back it feels like the end of innocence. We had no idea that it would be the last time we would be in a restaurant with friends, unburdened by the heavy weight such an innocent activity now carries. We clinked glasses to each other to stay safe and well, figuring maybe it would be a few weeks before seeing each other in such a setting (or ANY setting) again.

Now that it’s been a whole year, I hope we’ll eventually get back to dining with friends or having relatives over for birthday dinners but instead of being nervous about what’s coming around the bend, we’ll look back on this past year with amazement that we got through it. We’ll go back to clinking glasses and remember with wistfulness the days before masks or when we could hug with great abandon, free from fear of spreading a mystery virus. We’ll talk about the miracle of vaccines, admit to enjoying not having to battle traffic or wearing uncomfortable clothes and agree that it’s great the kids are finally back in school. One day our dinner party conversations will possibly compartmentalize this entire year to amusing stories, shared experiences and anecdotes. We will likely acknowledge that we were scared at times, but be proud we got through it and now feel lucky to have lived to tell the tale. And that is definitely an accomplishment worth celebrating.

I wonder how our kids will convert this time into the war stories they tell their grandchildren. How will they remember these past twelve months and how will those memories create the history for generations? Personally, fear of the unknown was a large part of what we’ve endured, but bravery, optimism and looking out for each other’s safety should be part of the legacy, too. These twelve months have been a year like none other and thankfully, most of us managed to get through it. Maybe not totally unscathed, but perhaps stronger, healthier and tougher for it in the long run.