Happy Holidays 2020!

2020. It sounded so promising, perhaps even a year of perfect clarity. Instead we got the Covid pandemic, with the future clouded and life askew in so many ways. Yet as we near the end of this benighted year, it seems important to start off by saying that we feel really lucky. Loch has been able to work successfully from home, Eileen has been able to continue pursuing her passion for vintage, and we’ve seen more of our three 20-something kids than we ever would have in the world that was. And so far, thanks to a fair amount of prudence, paranoia, and protective measures, none of us has contracted the virus, including Eileen’s nonagenarian parents, despite their retirement home having had a few Covid cases. It is devastating to know that so many people have suffered through job loss, job stress (let’s hear it for our healthcare workers!), food insecurity, illness and the loss of loved ones. Despite the litany of minor woes that follows, rest assured, we know how fortunate we have been thus far. We hope you all have fared as well as possible in this challenging year, physically and mentally.

The biggest impact of the pandemic has been on the kids. Spencer was pursuing a composing internship at a video game company in California at the start of the year, but we summoned him home in March when things started looking scary. After 2 weeks of quarantining in his room at home – Loch could easily get a job as an enforcer for the CDC – we welcomed him back into the family in person. Being forced to live in his pajamas in his room with one computer for gaming and one for composing so closely resembles his normal MO that it prompted his oldest friend to comment, “Spencer has been in training for quarantine his entire life!”. Hard to argue with this. He can’t get a job outside the home as long as he lives with us because we have risk factors and don’t want that outside exposure. And living rent free makes sense right now, so he’s idling his engines, with plans to head back to California once he’s gotten the vaccine.

Maisie has been hit the hardest by the pandemic, professionally speaking. She started the year as an understudy in a musical production of Emma at the prestigious Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and was cast in a production of Kinky Boots at a Chicago-area Equity theatre and in Hello, Dolly! at an Equity theatre in Indiana. So in March she quit her part-time job selling eyeglasses at Warby Parker to take a short Disney World vacation before starting Kinky Boots rehearsals at month’s end. Bad timing. Disney World closed, Kinky Boots postponed until next year, and Hello, Dolly! cancelled. Since she had left Warby Parker “voluntarily”, and had a contract but no paycheck from Kinky Boots, she didn’t qualify for unemployment. She has kept up with the voice-over auditions that her agent sends her and appeared in a really cool composite performance of “Sweet Home Chicago” to benefit the Illinois Arts Alliance (below), but live theatre is on an indefinite hold.

This led her to activate Plan B: she adopted a shelter cat, whom she named Finley Bemis Rose (Loch has gracefully accepted a second cat in the house for the holidays, although he wasn’t thrilled to be informed that he now has a grandkitten). She found a seasonal full-time customer service job that’s all done via internet chat and email, so it’s the perfect remote job. She’s seriously debating whether to give up her Equity theatre dreams and find a 9-5 job that will allow her to get her own apartment without roommates. We really miss getting to hear her sing, but did catch a break: she and her college roommates Meghan and Myrna, who sing together in a trio known as mcubed, are posting videos throughout December from a concert they did in 2018 which looks and sounds amazing; this is a great example.

Liam has been less impacted than his siblings by the pandemic, though he had to come home and finish his final quarter remotely when DePaul shut down. Here is a short excerpt from a text-based adventure that he created in one of his final class projects:

Despite that anticlimactic end to his college career, he graduated in June with honors. The school held a virtual graduation ceremony which his parents quite appreciated, since we did not have to fight through crowds to see Liam receiving his diploma. That left us with energy to stage a graduation celebration at home, including all the robes and stoles, a superfluity of photographs (see front of Christmas card), a mortar board toss in our driveway, a graduation banner, and a yard sign.

Since graduation Liam has come to realize on which side his (gluten free) bread is buttered, and has taken over all dishwashing duties, becoming very judgmental about how the rest of us load the dishwasher. Crafty child, we may never allow him to move out now. He has been spending his time doing lots of decompression video-gaming and occasionally applying for work-at-home jobs, so far without landing one. We are hoping that Maisie can hook him up with her temp agency, which will no doubt be as impressed as we are by his 100-words-per minute typing speed. He decided to watch the Chicago Bears games with Loch, and rapidly became the kind of fan who regularly morphs between triumph and despair, i.e. a typical Bears fan.

Eileen, by a curious coincidence, started the year off with a nasty illness that lasted for weeks. She had a fever, loss of taste and smell, and a persistent, wracking cough that eventually and excruciatingly bruised a rib. Probably contracted too early (late December) to be Covid, and no one else in the house got it—still, we wonder. The antique mall at which she is a seller shut down in March and did not reopen until June, so that time was spent learning how to shop for groceries remotely, meal plan for four adults, clean a house with four bathrooms because Loch nixed our usual bimonthly visits from a cleaning service, and practice what has come to be known as hygiene theater (mail and grocery sanitization). Come June, the antique mall reopened and she ventured back to thrift stores and estate sales, always decked out in PPE, which led to buying an embarrassing number of items that were damaged, because it’s hard to see or feel cracks and chips through fogged-up goggles and rubber gloves. She is happy to report that her dad, age 93, is doing well and her mom, age 91, though steadily declining due to dementia and congestive heart failure, is still hanging in there. Eileen has not been allowed in person visits with them since March due to Covid restrictions, which is right and proper, but feels wrong. She’s still quite active on Instagram (@stuffandnonsense503) if you want to check out her vintage ventures.

Loch’s company switched to work at home as of March 16th, and won’t be returning to the office until all have had the opportunity to be vaccinated in 2021. Thanks to video conferencing, the company was able to operate effectively and face the challenges presented by clients going bankrupt or understandably spending less on advertising, though with those challenges Loch has actually been working more hours than before, despite gaining back two hours per day of commute time. With the internet as everyone’s lifeline, he has necessarily upgraded our home WiFi setup to blanket the entire house, especially his “home office” in the dining room. He takes daily walks after the work-day ends, lest his chair-bound state catch up to him, and now knows our neighborhood far better than before. He particularly appreciates its many ravines (rare in the flat Midwest), a souvenir of the last ice age and the source of its name (Ravinia)—he managed to figure out a route that crosses no fewer than 10 ravines in just over a mile. (Eileen is surprised that he was able to make this discovery since he usually winds up walking in the pitch dark.) With everyone at home, we’ve had new wildlife sightings in our yard, including an oft-seen 8-point stag, squirrel-catching coyotes, foxes and does that like to sleep on our lawn (thus far, not together), and a bold raccoon that tucked into a pizza delivered to our front door before we could retrieve it. We did find time for a binge watch of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix—Loch loved the chess angle, while Eileen was captivated by the period décor and costumes.

Of the year twenty-twenty

We’ve had more than plenty:

May two-O-two-one

Bring less stress and more fun!