2020 in hindsight

Our annual Christmas letter

(Left to right) Dustin, Colin, Heath, Fiona, and Susan sit in front of the Pemaquid Point Light, a lighthouse in Maine, on 13 August 2020.
At the Pemaquid Point Light, Maine, 14 August 2020

NEW YORK
DECEMBER 2020

Dear family and friends,

We’ll start with the obvious: 2020 has not been the year we expected it to be.

Of course, it didn’t start out that way.

It was a leap year. We were married on Leap Day 2008, which meant that in February, for the first time in four years, we got to celebrate our official anniversary. We did so by taking a family walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn and stopping at Junior’s for some dessert (mostly slices of cheesecake).

We had no idea then that COVID-19 was already circulating widely in New York City. We had no idea that in the coming weeks schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year, or that we would avoid riding transit for four months to leave room for essential workers. We had no idea that we would hear sirens nonstop as ambulances took the sick to hospitals, or that we would start cheering for hospital workers at our window every night at 7. We had no idea that a nearby cemetery would become a frequent spot for us to go for walks, or that it would become markedly busier with burials. We had no idea that most of church for most of the year would take place on Zoom.

Through — and in spite of — all of that, life went on. We learned new ways to connect with and look after family and friends from a distance, and renewed our love of the outdoors. We learned from, and hopefully grew, in response to the pandemic, reckoning with racism (past and present), and natural disasters. While it has been a difficult year, we have had a lot to be grateful for.

In August, when COVID-19 was pretty well under control here in the Northeast, we hopped on a train and went to Maine. We were glad to get out of the city and spend time closer to nature, which we had been longing for for months. From Brunswick we rented a car and drove up the beautiful Maine coast all the way to Lubec, which is the easternmost place in the continental United States. Along the way we ate at a few roadside ice-cream stands; hiked in Acadia National Park; stayed in a cozy little cabin near Belfast; and explored a very cool old fort guarding the Penobscot River.

When school began in September, we decided to give in-person learning a try. When schools are open — which has itself been a spotty proposition this school year — Fiona, Colin, and Heath attend in person two or three days a week. With their ages and grades, this will likely be the only year all three get to go to the same school at the same time.

Fiona (10) is now in fifth grade and will soon be applying for middle school (!). She has missed seeing friends from school every day, but she gets to hang out with them occasionally on Zoom. She is as avid a reader as ever, and when she doesn’t have a book in hand you can often find her playing Minecraft. She recently joined a Girl Scout troop and looks forward to when their troop meetings and activities can be in person rather than virtual.

Colin (turning 7 in January) is now in first grade. He, too, is an avid reader, and every night at bedtime can be found flipping through the pages of a book before he goes to sleep. He loves playing with his sister and brother and often plays Minecraft with them. He has also developed a love for racecars and has opened up a whole new genre of YouTube videos to our family.

Heath (5) is in kindergarten. He loves getting to ride the school bus with his sister and brother. In March, he suddenly developed a love for beavers, which has since shown up in his pretend play, his toy requests, and his Halloween costume. He is a happy little guy who loves learning new things and helping others.

Dustin has served as the bishop of our ward (the leader of our church congregation) since November 2019. Under ordinary circumstances it would be a challenging position (entirely unpaid, by the way); the pandemic has added an extra dimension of complexity. But he has really enjoyed getting to know and work alongside the other members — especially the extraordinary youth — in our ward.

Susan is still adjusting to teaching online and has taken to entertaining herself by putting a different object on the shelf behind her each day. So far, no one has noticed. She is constantly taking on new projects — creating the master schedule at school, becoming a Girl Scout leader, baking a pie every Sunday (that one lasted only two weeks) — but has started to learn that she can’t do everything.

As this year draws to a close, we express our sorrow to those who have gotten sick, or who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus, or who have lost jobs or income or been adversely impacted in any way. Please know that we love you and that we are here for you.

To those of you who are dealing with the inconvenience of wearing masks and making personal sacrifices to help keep this virus under control, we say a big THANK YOU! (And if you’re not doing those things — seriously, get with it.)

Now that we think about it, we’re not really sure what we expected 2020 to be like when we wrote you a year ago. But we certainly didn’t expect a pandemic and the challenges and changes to daily life it would bring. While we have not been unaffected by these challenges, we also recognize that we have been able to live through it in very fortunate circumstances.

But whatever challenges we all face now and in the coming year, we are encouraged by these words from Gordon B. Hinckley, who served as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1995 to 2008:

It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future.

We are grateful for you. When we count our many blessings, we count you among them. And we know brighter days are ahead. It will all work out.

Merry Christmas
& Happy New Year

With our love,
Susan, Dustin, Fiona, Colin, & Heath

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