Gratitude

If you had asked me this time last year what 2020 would bring, I would have never predicted any of this. A global pandemic, working from home, our children out of school for months, wearing an N95 and face shield to see each and every patient, Zoom classes for a 4 and a 5 year old, walking around downtown wearing a mask, a scarcity of paper towels and hand sanitizer, not seeing our families for months…it seems surreal reading those words back, even though they are things that actually happened (and are happening) this year.

Someone shared this image with me today and it seemed so fitting to read on Thanksgiving Eve. As an adult, I recognize that this holiday is not the idyllic pilgrim/Native American bonding fest that I learned about in school. It also wasn’t a huge holiday in our home. We were immigrants, my parents disliked turkey and I was a vegetarian, so we only really started celebrating when my younger brother was in school because he found out that all of his friends were eating turkey! But through the years we have come to define this holiday on our own terms. At the very beginning of our relationship, my husband and I celebrated at his aunt’s home, a family tradition for them and my first introduction to the extended family. We would drive or take a bus to see our families. Once we moved out West, we enjoyed a number of Friendsgiving festivities, since the holiday break always seemed too short to fly out East.

This year, we will be celebrating alone as a new family of 6. We are ordering a traditional Thanksgiving meal, because the thought of cooking with four little ones running around and no one to entertain them is too much. We’ll surprise the kids with gratitude lists – a compilation of why their parents and siblings are grateful for them. We’ll watch the Macy’s Day Parade, run our own Turkey Trot (a 1 or 2 mile loop around the neighborhood) and choose toys to donate to a local school district. I feel more fortunate than ever to have created this sweet full nuclear family during this incredibly tumultuous year.

While compiling photos for our 2020 photo book, I began to see our adventures this year in a different light. So many photos of the local park, where we went for days upon days upon days, because it was close to home and had bike trails and few people – the place where our then 1 year old learned to ride his strider bike like a champ. Photos of us walking, biking and scooting around the neighborhood – devising different routes to spice things up. The countless workbooks and crafts we coordinated for the kids to do – so many pictures of them gathered around the dining room table working on one thing or another. The forts and pillow creations and countless games of “lava”. The bounce house we finally caved and bought, and how when the wildfires were raging we set it up in our living room to get the wiggles out. The summer weekends spent in an isolated area of the beach, the kids first venturing timidly to the water and then donning wetsuits and bodyboards so confidently that we had to move them to a beach that was safer for little ones to swim in. Reimagining birthdays – photos of home decor, cakes, presents. The time we celebrated the birthday of two stuffed animals in our home just to have an activity for the weekend (also learning that stuffed animals are now called “stuffies”). The boys spending most of the day half-naked in the backyard, doing all sorts of water play and venturing over to the “hot side” of the house to have their picnic lunch. A first day of school photo in front of a laptop and a white board when our oldest child’s school launched a virtual curriculum at the start of the year. So many great memories that warm my heart.

Like most hard things, the photos show only the good times. Missing from them is the fear as COVID-19 spread to our community. The uncertainty at the hospital – when do we wear masks? How do we screen patients? Will we run out of PPE? Seeing patients while pregnant, hoping I wouldn’t get sick. Coming home and showering immediately before allowing the kids to come close to me. The disappointment as we canceled trip after trip – wiping away tears when our children cried to see their grandparents. The fear of having to go to the ED postpartum and worrying about exposing my 3 day old to COVID. My oldest saying “I’m so sick of coronavirus. I’m tired of hand sanitizer and wearing masks. I wish things could go back to normal.” The weight of trying to make everything okay for your kids, when things in the world were so far from okay.

But we have been lucky. We have not gotten sick. Our parents have not gotten sick. My husband and I still have our jobs. We have not suffered financially. Two of our children are able to attend school in person. I am immensely grateful for all of that and more.

So this Thanksgiving, I am choosing to reflect on the positive notes in those photos. Years from now, that is ultimately what I will remember the most. A special time when all 5 (and then 6) of us were able to be safe at home together. No school, working from home, then maternity and paternity leave. A special time to bond while our children were young and wanted to spend time with us. My goal for the next few weeks, in anticipation of returning to work, is to enjoy these moments as much as possible. As difficult as they can be sometimes, I know that I will miss them immensely when they are gone.

Summertime

We spent the weekend doing #allthingssummer. We played outside almost all day – at the playground, the beach, the pool. We rode bikes, splashed around, ate outdoors. It was hot but so so lovely. It brought back fond memories of summertime in NY. I don’t know what it’s like for those who grew up in California, but if you grew up in NY, you savored the summer.

As a child, I remember hot days kicking a soccer ball around the park behind our home, climbing trees with my friend Michael, and spending days swimming in Kristen’s pool. Now, when I say pool, you may be envisioning a beautiful in-ground pool with a diving board. Kristen’s pool was above-ground and in retrospect not much larger than a hot tub. But at the time it was the bomb! Kristen was the only kid I knew with a pool and it was key for those hot summer days. My parents would also take me to the community pool. I loved it there. I would swim for hours! My lips would turn blue and my teeth would chatter but I would refuse to leave the pool. I fondly recall learning how to dive here and feeling so proud.

A few years later and a little bit older, I remember long days of ┬árunning around the neighborhood. I would wake up in the morning and eat bowls and bowls of cereal (Blueberry Morning was a real favorite) while reading. My mom would tell me to focus on one or the other (in retrospect, she was right) but I would keep on downing cereal and taking in the words. Once I had carb-loaded, I’d head out the door. ┬áI’d meet up with friends and we would spend hours running around. We’d ride our bikes, rollerblade, play tennis (and pretty much any other sport one can play outdoors), pop over to each other’s houses, and find creative ways to pass the time. We’d come home hours later tired and dirty.

Hot, sticky NY summers also called for a lot of ice cream and ice pops. For a while I was really into the patriotic, red, white and blue pops. This must have been before I became obsessed with chocolate.

Older still and we’d stop for bagels before spending the day at the beach. The Long Island beaches were always crowded once Memorial Day hit. We’d put on our tanning lotion (these were my pre-derm days; I wish I could take them back now that I see the sun damage on my face) and lay out on the beach for hours. We’d head back home tired and happy. On other days we’d hang out at a friend’s pool or canoe. And there was still ice cream.

So many memories – too many to jot down in one sitting, but I hope to pass these very same memories onto my own children. So looking forward to all that summer 2017 has in store!