In March 2020 on the cusp of the Covid pandemic my husband was scheduled for surgery, but the prospect of him spending even a few days in a large New York hospital was worrisome. Luckily the doctor discharged him one day post-op, I took him home, and the next day we left Manhattan and drove to rural Connecticut to what had been – until then – our weekend house.
Thus we began our Covid quarantine as full-time country folks, and in fact we didn’t return to the city for over a year. During that time, other than our son we had no visitors, had all our groceries delivered, baked lots of banana bread, and learned to live in lockdown. (See The Summer of My Discontent)
Our house is in a resort community where we have a circle of friends, mostly weekenders like ourselves. But during those early months of 2020 as New York rapidly became a Covid epicenter, many of them – like us – came up to sit out the pandemic away from the city.
Each night on the TV news, with office buildings nearly empty, and shops and restaurants and Broadway theaters shuttered, we watched the city that never sleeps gradually become a ghost town. And even our country community seemed deserted as we all stayed indoors, venturing out only occasionally to the local markets and shops, while on the roads only a few intrepid souls could be seen out driving or biking or jogging.
And locked down with only my spouse for company led to some marital strife, and I realized how much I craved the companionship of other women.
I was certainly not alone in those feelings, and one day a friend called and asked me to join her and other women in the pavilion where summer parties and outdoor concerts were usually held. “Bring a folding chair and we’ll sit six feet apart and talk.” she said.
And so the pavilion became a safe place to share our pandemic fears and our feelings of isolation, and of course to talk about so much more. We met weekly, and sometimes only six or seven of us were there, and sometimes more than a dozen women showed up. We began to bring bag lunches and often stayed together for most of the afternoon.
And there in the pavilion old friendships were strengthened and new ones forged, and during that first spring and summer we all looked forward to those gatherings. In the fall we continued to meet as long as the weather permitted, and then over the winter we Zoomed, and in the spring we returned to the pavilion.
But as time passed and with the advent of vaccines our Covid concerns lessened. After that second pandemic summer many of us moved back to the city, we resumed our old routines and responsibilities, and we came to accept the new normal of post-pandemic life. And altho our bonds remained strong, we eventually stopped meeting as a group.
But those gatherings in the pavilion had been an antidote to our isolation, an affirmation of our sisterhood, and a lifeline when we needed it most.
– Dana Susan Lehrman