it’s a list lover’s favorite time of year! Here are a few treasures from my 2020.
Julie O’Rourke: I was shopping with a friend (a phrase I can use to describe two hours in all of 2020) and the shopkeeper and I struck up a conversation about wool felting and how we wanted to get better at it because of Rudy Jude. “She’s always doing that,” we said to each other, nodding enthusiastically to make up for the way our smiles were covered by masks. My friend said, “Who’s Rudy Jude?” We both looked at her like she had just told us she didn’t know what rainbows are. A mixture of deep concern and regret furrowed the visible and invisible parts of our faces. And so dear reader, I worry that some among you may be similar! I once insta-responded to Julie that she was “the da Vinci of our time” and I meant it fully.
Airpods: I waited a long time to adapt to these little white plugs dripping gently from my ears like melting taffy pieces. I didn’t buy them when they came out because I was very busy judging everyone wearing them as rude isolationists who were too busy to live. Well, now I absolutely adore them. I love how I can keep one in and actually hear what I’m listening to while doing the dishes. I love how it automatically pauses when I pluck it out of my ear, so I can be a good listener without inwardly panicking that I’m missing great chunks of storyline. I love how it begins again when I place it back in my ear so I don’t have to find and tap my phone with batter-covered fingers. I love how I can listen to something while walking ever-so-slowly at a toddler’s pace around the yard and down the road. I love the way Joe and I can each put one in one of our ears and listen to something adult together on car rides with the children.
Poetry Unbound: a man with deep Irish accent reads a poem, discusses it, and reads it again. He references peacemaking, relationships, affection, sexuality, parents, neighbors, expectations of self. The poems are so good and all of them are written by modern authors who are alive. It is short and unmatched in how quick it cuts to the quick the things that drive us. One caveat: I love listening to this show with my airpods, I have a hard time catching his words when played over the speaker or in the car.
Lazy Genius: with episodes about actually using your iphone photos, how to structure your day, plotting a fall reading list, and how to begin using your instant pot without getting overwhelmed, I find these 15 minute pep talks do wonders for re-scaffolding my approach to things.
a Sunday afternoon babysitter: When we moved to Vermont two years ago, we gave up on babysitters entirely. Not only did we not know anyone in the area, but we were about to have a baby. Reflecting that she would likely be my last baby, I decide to commit to nursing her exclusively. Even tethered to her nutritionally as well as emotionally, I suspected her first year would fly by. It did! She passed the one year mark just as full quarantine set in, and naturally we had no where to go at that point anyway. Late summer, a friend suggested that a nearby neighbor would likely be able to handle babysitting our gaggle. Knowing that half the mental energy of working with her would go to schedule doggling, I asked if we could just do the same day and time every week. We decided not to bother with bedtimes because what our children desperately needed was someone else to talk to. We settled on a late afternoon early dinner time slot. I’m so thankful we got to have her in our lives this fall and winter, thank you Izzy!
An excellent email newsletter: my friend Meredith shared Laura Olin’s newsletter with me back at the tippy of the pandemic and I’m always sparkle-struck by how Laura finds and emails exactly the type of link list I was in the mood for.
Here is a totally fascinating random bit: when I googled Laura to tell you more about her newsletter, I learned that she’s an incredibly savvy digital social media manager, a primary player in the 2012 Obama campaign. I felt I knew her from her newsletters, knew her taste, her natural sympathies, knew the way she liked cocktails and poetry and internet tv shows. But I also didn’t know her at all!
Laura pointed me to AOC’s beauty routine recording that she made for Vogue. I think about it every other day or so ever since watching it. She also pointed me to the You’re Wrong About episodes about Diana and the Royal Family–which are AMAZING.
Company in the Evenings: It feels odd to admit but I do have fond (fond!) memories of those March/April pandemic days when we were all scrambling to adapt and no one really believed 300,000+ people would die and healthcare workers would be asked to sacrifice everything their entire lives and essential workers (which we soon learned meant meagerly paid hourly workers like grocery stork clerks and gas station attendants) would fall sick in droves. As our community around us quickly shuttered, we turned to distant old friends, and family. I began talking to my two old best friends from high school. We love talking to each other, but had completely fallen out of the habit of it. When we did talk, I hated that I had grown so clueless about their day-to-day lives that I had to wade through constant catchup to even begin to relate again. We began talking once a week, and I was astonished by how quickly our friendship flame grew stronger by these little bits of kindling. So grateful for that.
And then there were the two or three times when my parents shipped three bottles of wine to all their kids’ households, and we sat on zoom and “tasted them ” (downed them) together. A couple of times our conversation and themes were guided by Ryan + Wine zoom wine tastings ($25 per session!), and it was fun to learn something together. Afterward, we would stay on zoom, laugh, and talk, some of us signing off to go to sleep, some of us staying up late talking. I cherish those memories.
I’m sure, despite how awful this year was, there are more. Just now I think of the way libraries morphed to get kids books again, the thoughtful mail that came, the nostalgia of past adventures that welled up and reminded me of all the memories I had to treasure…and I will try to keep writing them down! But that’s all for now.