By Elena Epstein
“Where were you this time last year?” I’ve been hearing that question a lot. As the world reflects on the one-year mark since a global pandemic was declared, we can’t help but look back at the last 12 months. Even so, the “where-were-you” question is hard to answer because the anxiety and the uncertainty didn’t just happen in one instant. It was many moments building on each other and then a sudden halt.
In late February last year I was in New York, attending the International Toy Fair at the Javits Convention Center, what would become the last large convention held in 2020. Hundreds of people from around the world gathered in one spot. We joked about not shaking hands, but we did anyway. I carried an extra bottle of hand sanitizer, but everything else was pretty normal — three days of going from booth to booth to see the latest toys and games by day and eating at bustling Manhattan restaurants by night. My husband and I went to see “The Tina Turner Musical” on Broadway one evening and visited cousins in New Jersey. We then hopped on a plane to Tampa for the annual Parenting Media Association’s Conference and Awards Banquet. We sat in group seminars, went out to dinner together and hugged everyone goodbye. On the plane ride back to L.A., the passenger in front of me had a deep-chested cough throughout the flight. I assumed she was getting over a bad cold.
The coronavirus was in the news, but it felt removed from us and our daily lives. The shift came quickly after. Back in our L.A. Parent offices, we started getting press alerts on large events being canceled. Our office talk became focused on the empty shelves at Target, Trader Joe’s and Ralphs.
Our editor was the first to get the press alert about Disneyland and California Adventure closing. She read it out loud as we gathered in the hallway in disbelief.
Within days, L.A. and the rest of the world would come to a screeching halt. Our L.A. Parent team quickly turned their living rooms, kitchens and garages into offices. I didn’t realize just how suddenly we had left our offices until I returned months later to see all the calendars frozen in time: March 2020. Our editor’s soft golden shawl was still draped on the back of her chair, empty coffee mugs waited on the counter in the break room. Files and books sat on desks. Our editorial notes on summer camp stories were scribbled on the idea wall. With my phone, I took some videos and photos of our office on that first visit back. Watch this short video and you’ll see our empty, quiet offices suspended in time.
While we tried to figure out our own personal challenges of taking care of elderly parents, spouses’ job losses, kids falling behind on school work, we also dove into what we do best – bringing the stories of our community to life. Parents were struggling with anxiety, job insecurities, loss of loved ones, co-parenting in a pandemic, managing disabilities and learning differences during distance learning. Our focus became very clear: stand in community with the families of L.A.
Here’s what we learned in the process. What unites us is so much stronger than what divides us. With every article on local volunteers and change makers like Rob Evans who is leading the charge towards diversity and inclusion in L.A.’s independent schools, we were reminded of the strength of our community. Our cover story with Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts inspired us to look at “disappointment as an opportunity…how can I learn from this or how can I help others.”
We turned to the experts and asked “are the kids OK?” We talked about mental health, dealing with uncertainty, accessing support groups, helping our kids retain their social skills, creating a feel-good schedule, and the best ways to stay optimistic and look for the silver linings.
Distance learning was a challenge for all families. Our education coverage focused on resources on how parents can help with the COVID Slide, virtual kids programming at local museums, and L.A. public libraries offering personalized online support for students. We wrote about local teens using quarantine to teach others, enrichment programs gone virtual, how to keep young athletes in shape from home and the heartbreak and hope of the Class of 2020.
In the past year, our community experts and the diverse voices of families, writers, artists and advocates helped us to begin the conversations with our kids about race. We will continue to showcase these stories throughout this year and beyond. These stories are our L.A. stories.
Throughout this year, we encouraged our readers to not cancel joy and to continue to have fun with their kids with game nights, bike rides, hikes, new puppies, home cooking, gardening and perhaps taking a socially-distance road trip in an RV, like our editor did for the first time. A year in, I know I speak for all of us at L.A. Parent when I say: L.A. – we’re in awe of your strength and resilience. Despite all the losses and uncertainties, we continue to carry on with hope.