Office wall with calendars and other items

A brief visit to the Magazine’s offices was “like entering a world that had stopped all at once.” (Photography by Laura Demanski, AM’94)

Forward and pause

On closing the distances imposed by COVID-19.

I talk to my parents, who live in a different state, every evening. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a few changes to this routine. Every morning before work, I text my dad, an early riser. For the first few months, it went like this: “Good morning.” “Good morning.” “How do you feel?” “Fine.” (Thankfully.)

Sometime in the late spring, my dad started answering my first text in ways that anticipated the second—“It is a good one” or “Good morning, all is well”—setting my mind at ease right away. I have no doubt that this routine will rule our correspondence for a while to come: wake up, worry, text, receive response, and (hopefully) feel relief.

The second change was more recent, starting in September or October. At the end of each evening call, like always, my parents will say, “Love you.” Like always, I tell them the same. Lately my mom has then added, with emphasis, “a lot.”

It hasn’t gone unnoticed, as you see.

Months after it began, this pandemic is a different beast, and the same one. Work from home—something I’m really grateful to be able to do—is more routine, and more alarming when I sum up how long we’ve been doing it.

Two weeks ago I returned to the Magazine’s offices for the first time since March, to pick up a needed file. Stepping into my office was like entering a world that had stopped all at once. The calendars I keep on the wall for the current month (hedgehogs) and the next (wild and scenic Michigan) were turned to March and April. The whiteboard wall where the team tracks our deadlines and triumphantly checks off every issue sent to the printer was in a similar time capsule, the last red check mark by the Winter/20 issue, which we sent out in February. My plants were quite dead.

I hustled out of there quickly. Back at home, there’s not much room to roam, but life does go on—work gets done, meetings happen, meals get made, movies get watched, friends get called. One of the little things that keep me going is hearing from you, in letters and in your frankly uplifting Alumni News updates for each other. I’ve always enjoyed eavesdropping on those. Lately I enjoy it a lot.

The upcoming holidays will test us all, stretching the felt distance from the faraway people we love. To the extent it helps, consider the Magazine one way to stay woven into the fabric of the life we all miss.