Two years ago, when I was applying for the job I currently have, the hiring manager asked me what my dream job would be. I laughed because, if you had asked me that question in my 20s, I would have said to work in the marketing department for the Baltimore Orioles or Baltimore Ravens. But in my mid-30s, that answer had changed – if someone were to offer me a full-time salary to be a stay-at-home dad, I would have done it in a heartbeat. If I could have made one wish at that time, it would have been for the opportunity to have even more daddy/daughter time with Rebecca than I already did. Little did I know that, a year later, that wish would come true in the most unfortunate of circumstances.
I consider March 13, 2020 to be the anniversary of the pandemic for our family and I remember that day like it was yesterday. After it was announced that schools would be closed for two weeks, I went to Beth El after work to pick up Rebecca from school but honestly treated it like any other Friday. All the teachers were in the lobby to say goodbye and a few were even crying, but I truly believed that we would be back in that lobby again soon. Maybe not in two weeks, and maybe it would even be a month, but I firmly believed that Rebecca would complete her last year at Beth El School in her classroom with a real graduation ceremony like we had been dreaming about for four years.
When the lockdowns started, I remember walking around our old neighborhood a lot those first few months and thinking about all the things I hoped would return so Rebecca could have as normal a summer as possible. I’m extremely grateful, and recognize how lucky we are, for how normal a summer it was given the circumstances. Beth El put on a fantastic and meaningful drive-thru graduation ceremony, the outdoor pool opened, Rebecca had a small birthday party, the JCC opened its summer camp, and we even took a few family trips to the beach. The only thing missing was baseball games, but she got a Zoom call with the Oriole Bird for her birthday and got to watch some games (and the hot dog race) on TV. When the fall rolled around, Beth Tfiloh opened its doors so Rebecca could spend her kindergarten year in the school.
Despite all that, the last year has still been tough on our family. Although we were spared the worse consequences of the pandemic, we know people who were not so lucky and mourned for them. And, like so many other families, we also had to celebrate birthdays and holidays over Zoom or from a distance on a driveway, Rebecca went 10 long weeks before she was able to leave the neighborhood or play with another kid, we spent the High Holidays in our basement instead of in shul, and the constant fear of the unknown hung like the sword of Damocles over our heads the entire time. We were luckier than some, less so than others, but thankful to have come out the other side healthy and safe.
Now, that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger and brighter by the day. Almost our entire immediate family has received at least one does of the vaccine and my in-laws recently flew up from Florida to see their grandchildren for the first time in a year. The Passover seders won’t have as many people at them as they did in 2019, but there will be more than we had in 2020. Capacity limits are being lifted, the vaccines are being mass produced, and there is even talk of a return to normal over the summer (which would also certainly mean spending the High Holidays in shul this year).
Looking back to that job interview in the spring of 2019, I would not change my answer from when I was asked about my dream job. I always wanted more daddy/daughter time with Rebecca, and I got more than I ever thought I would. The circumstances were far from ideal but looking back on our scavenger hunts through the neighborhood, the class projects at the kitchen table, the games we made up outside, and the movies we watched together on the couch bring a smile to my face that helps to brighten up what was certainly a dark time in the world. She almost never stopped smiling, so neither did we. And now that a return to normal is around the corner, we can all hopefully have something to really smile about in the months ahead.
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