One year since normal - Shawn Loughlin editorial
The day last week’s issue of The Citizen came out (March 11) marked one year since the last normal thing I did. Yes, on March 11, 2020, Jess and I took a trip to Toronto and the world has certainly changed in the 12 months that followed.
We were aware of the COVID-19 virus at the time and had seriously contemplated not going. However, we figured that if we were cautious and washed our hands regularly (physical distancing and masks weren’t really things just yet) that we would be alright, even though Jess was rather pregnant at the time.
We had bought tickets to see a lecture by Irish chef J.P. McMahon at George Brown College’s Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. There, he spoke for a while, signed copies of his new cookbook and then the centre’s culinary students shared their versions of some of the food from the book with us.
Jess and I ate at McMahon’s Michelin-Starred restaurant Aniar in Galway on our honeymoon in Ireland, so we really wanted to meet him. I think we’re both happy we did it, but, knowing what we know now, some of the stuff that went ahead, namely the shared food scenarios, was bonkers. It’s no one’s fault, of course, we just didn’t know as much then.
In the next few days, the severity of the virus came to light as the world shuttered country by country and we felt a little foolish for heading to Canada’s most populous city the very day a worldwide pandemic was declared. We’d both be lying if we said we weren’t counting down that now-ingrained period of two weeks, hoping to get to March 25 without falling ill.
The last year has been full of different milestones for us, as we became parents for the first time. We’ve been thinking more about our daughter gaining the right amount of weight every month, rolling over, and sleeping and eating well, but to look back on things now, it really has been quite a ride.
It feels like a lifetime ago that we could congregate in an (albeit, small) auditorium and listen to a speaker and eat food together. But then again, and maybe this has to do with our preoccupation with other things during this time, it almost feels like it’s flown by. Most of the people I know quickly and easily adapted to our new way of life and are keen to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
But it does feel like an anniversary that’s worth marking. Jess and I did so much of what we cherish that day. We spent a lot of time together, of course, but we ate and drank (Jess didn’t drink anything alcoholic, of course) at a great restaurant, walked around a beautiful city and then took in something interesting. How long it will be until we can do that again – now, for a number of reasons – is anybody’s guess, so I suppose that’s a big piece of this puzzle as well. If we knew it would be the last time (for a while, anyway), would we have enjoyed it more? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Thinking back to March 11, 2020, it would have been hard to know what awaited us over the course of the next 365 days. As someone who lived in the Toronto area during the SARS outbreak, I certainly didn’t think this would happen. But that’s another aspect of our lives through the pandemic – we learned to adapt and roll with the punches like never before.
Everyone likely remembers their last “normal” day before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and changed everything. Those anniversaries will be coming up. Be sure to reflect and think ahead to life after the pandemic, because that time will come and we’ll all be able to reconnect and our days will again be normal, albeit different.