To quote my son, “Oof.”
2020 was a year that I don’t think that anyone will ever forget. Unfortunately for many of us, that will be because of the craziness that happened in the world around us. A global pandemic, wildfires that threatened places we hold dear, social unrest, and a lengthy, stressful election season. We’ve been isolated physically and felt isolated emotionally in the shadow of this virus. We’ve struggled with role changes amid working from home & learning from home, and spent time wondering just who exactly it was that hoarded all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Though it seems crazy to say after the eon that was 2020, I’m choosing to focus on the joy, on the blessings, the growth that happened and the truths that emerged in the midst of it all.
We rang in the New Year with a 10 day old baby, ready to take on the new adventure of raising three tiny humans. Stephen and the rest of the Rabon clan headed to Austin for his cousin’s wedding, while my mom was in Colorado with me tending to the babies. After his return, we celebrated Jonathan’s 6th birthday. Six years of laughter, joy, mischief and the best hair in the business.
My brother came to visit to meet Hannah and started Stephen down a path of pho addiction that he is still in the middle of even now.
The world really shut down in March and as we transitioned into lockdown mode, my family suffered the biggest loss of my life. My beloved Papa, patriarch of the Padilla family and all-around amazing human, was taken in just a few short weeks of battling pancreatic cancer. Being far away, unable to visit, unable to help my Nana, unable to see him in person for a last time was/is extremely hard. Traveling, gathering, being in hospitals – all of it deemed unsafe as the pandemic came to a head. I’m so thankful my cousin was able to FaceTime me while with him, while he was still able to laugh and joke and meet Hannah for the first time. Jesus called him home on March 27. It had been nearly a year since I saw him last, so my last in person memories are of him sharing his dessert with a one-year-old Abigail, making Jonathan laugh by popping out his dentures, and eating oatmeal raisin cookies for breakfast together. Like we always would.
A big month for us as we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. We had always intended to go on a trip, just the two of us, for this milestone, but the world wasn’t suitable for those plans this year. What this taught us was the value of togetherness, wherever you are and in whatever circumstances. There’s certainly no way we would have thought in 2010 that on our ten year anniversary there would be a global pandemic, but the wisdom of being married ten years showed us that we can and do conquer anything together. There’s something appropriate about being surrounded by all the blessings that you prayed for when you got married to celebrate that commitment to each other and to building a life together.
Jonathan finished kindergarten in May, after a couple months of remote learning. Remote learning tested us (mostly me) in a lot of ways as we adjusted to life with all three kids home, working full time, educating Jonathan and him having less social interaction. He is amazing, though, and persevered to finish 1st grade level work in his first year in school. His sweet teacher came by the house with a cap and gown to present his certificate so Covid wouldn’t rob him of the entire graduation experience.
Stephen’s birthday. Father’s Day. Abigail & Mom’s birthday. Nana’s birthday. Celebrating so many of my favorite people, together. It was so good for my heart to get to spend some time with Nana. She’s incredible, resilient and so so loved.
Enjoying the ability to be outside and with friends. A change from the spring of being shut in, yet keeping safe.
Jonathan returned to school, in-person, which was a huge blessing for us all. Our little extrovert loved being with his teachers and friends, even with the protocols around masks and distancing. His teacher continued him on the trajectory he started the year before and Jonathan was doing 2nd grade as a 1st grader.
Jonathan started soccer, his first ever organized sport. We weren’t sure if he would like it, but he really seemed to embrace it. I think his favorite part was the social aspect, but he also scored a goal and by the end really started to hustle well and play some solid D. He was by far the cutest person that I have ever seen play.
After months of feeling disconnected due to the pandemic, but also reaching a point in the grieving process where I couldn’t stand being away from my family, we road tripped to California. Due to restrictions about gathering, we still haven’t been able to properly come together to celebrate my Papa’s life, but my heart and soul just needed to be with everyone. A time like this is when a family should rally, but distance and disease had made that impossible. We decided to go about a week and a half before we drove out and it was so good for every part of me to just BE with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, grandparents and the extended family I was able to see. I even got a moment alone in Nana and Papa’s house, with the urn containing Papa’s ashes and the beautiful photo of him — there was a big release, a sigh of relief, to just have that moment with him. It was important, needed, profound.
When Jonathan returned to school after fall break, his small school had reorganized the classes due to the makeup of the student body and he was now in a 2nd/3rd grade class instead of a K-2, so he’s pretty much officially a grade ahead.
We celebrated a much smaller Thanksgiving this year, but we were grateful to get to spend it with Mike, Marcie & Rebekah. The mandates limited gatherings to two households, so it was not the big, extended family event that we normally have, but there was something nice about the simplicity of it. We did gather (outdoors) for an all family photo, and that’s pretty special.
The school district put the kids on remote learning after Thanksgiving, so we spent the first part of the month on scheduled Google meets for Jonathan and ended the month celebrating Hannah’s first birthday and having a low key Christmas with just our little family & Zoom/FaceTime calls with grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins. My parents came out for Hannah’s birthday and it was really special to have them back to celebrate after they were present for her birth last year. It also helped make her birthday a different, special event and not just combined with Christmas.
Through all the uncertainty, loss, confusion and general anxiety of the year that was 2020, God continued to be good. He gave us so many opportunities to reflect His love to others and to show kindness to those around us. We had new challenges, but in those we also had new chances to care for ourselves and others. We were confronted with situations – at home, at work, in the grocery store – that most of us have never faced. And when given the opportunity to rise to the occasion – to find ways to serve one another, to extend grace and courtesy, and to lean on and support one another – I like to think that most people did. It’s so easy to get down on the state of the world when reading the news, but the stories that have come out of this year of people helping people, bringing light in times of darkness, and rallying together for the greater good are what I want to remember about 2020.
I hope that we can look ahead to 2021 with new perspective and new goals, with a thirst for connection, curiosity and anticipation of good to come. January 1 didn’t magically solve all of our problems, and we knew it wouldn’t. But there is something exciting and, yeah, maybe slightly magical, about an opportunity to renew our minds, bodies and souls with opportunities, knowledge and conviction. We all experienced a lot in the last year, but I think so many of us have gained a clearer picture of who we are and what we really believe in. We’ve learned how truly powerful community is – and how we feel when we don’t have it. Human ingenuity has gifted us means to connect even in these times, and while Zoom calls and digital happy hours aren’t ideal, we see more than ever how God didn’t make us to live this life alone. Really dig in this year, be intentional and purposeful in connecting with people. Check in on your friends and family. Let them know they’re still loved, cared for and cherished. Love your neighbor. Serve others in the capacity that you are able. Grieve with those who have suffered loss this last year, and celebrate with those who are having victories in this unusual time.
Here’s to 2021 – a year of hope, a year of grace, and a year of possibility.