Judy Foreman
Equipped with disinfectant wipes, the author pauses for a photo opportunity during her 2020 birthday at Los Arroyos Mexican Restaurant in Montecito. It was her last hurrah before the coronavirus crashed the party. (Foreman family file photo)

With the upcoming one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown, I find myself reflecting on all that has happened over these last 12 difficult months. It’s left me melancholy.

Last year at this time I celebrated my birthday with a large group of friends at Los Arroyos Mexican Restaurant in Montecito. The theme of the party was the “Great Girlfriend Reunion,” and the guest list included many of the women I’ve shared my life with over the last several decades.

A lot of us have kids who grew up together, and all these years later we moms still reminisce about Montecito Union School carnivals and other childhood milestones.

Other guests were women I’ve interviewed for my lifestyle columns over the past 20 years. They’re not just merchants and fashion influencers, but friends, and I love all their stories.

At the time of the party, there was buzz about some scary virus but it wan’t enough to call off the festivities. Just in case, I brought some Lysol Disinfecting Wipes, but they went unused.

When I look back at my photos of that night in 2020 B.C. (Before Coronavirus), I see smiling faces, laughter, great food and, of course, no masks. One year later, I’m fighting the blues in spite of the best efforts of my family, especially my granddaughters, to celebrate my birthday.

Although I’m grateful for having received both of my coronavirus vaccinations, the process was still anxiety-ridden. My bubble of safe family and friends has not expanded much, but I have been venturing out for lunches now that restaurant have reopened for outdoor dining.

I’ve spent more time alone in my house than I ever have and am talking to my dog, who does not respond but we seem to understand each other. We enjoy our time as companions.

I have gotten to know myself in ways I never expected. Between bouts of loneliness, fear, irritation and frustration, I remind myself to be grateful that I — and my children and their families — have stayed healthy.

Gail Nassi and Judy Foreman

Gail Nassi and the author at the Rosewood Miramar Beach in 2020 B.C. (Before COVID-19). (Foreman family file photo)

I’ve had to work hard to keep myself buoyant. My activities have included online art history and cooking classes, Zoom book clubs, golf, outdoor barre 3 classes, yoga and meditation. I’ve even tried taking Spanish and tended to my garden.

As I’ve begun edging back out into the community, I’ve realized how much I missed running errands. I’m task oriented so I like how it feels to check things off my list.

There is a welcome kindness that has surfaced. A simple “How are you doing?” will initiate a lengthy conversation. Replies include “as good as can be expected,” “OK,” “looking forward to getting back to normal,” “I miss my grandchildren” and “I have to go on a diet.”

I don’t think the new normal will ever resemble the old one, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Life is full of changes, and those who are happiest and go with the flow seem to fare better.

I feel different, in a quiet sort of way. I do think my social skills are a bit off, but the empty days on my calendar and spending time alone seem more comfortable to me than I ever imagined.

So as this year’s birthday rolled around again, and I look back at the faces from last year’s party, most of us remember it as a last hurrah before the COVID-19 curtain came crashing down. Its significance is much more than a birthday celebration.

One of the lessons from the COVID-19 crisis is that we never know what’s ahead. Enjoying each moment is all we can do.

It’s a lesson I am still learning and will take with me through 2021 and beyond. I hope to see you all soon.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at news@noozhawk.com. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at news@noozhawk.com. The opinions expressed are her own.