What a Difference A Year Makes

A year ago today, we were eager to greet a new decade.

We could celebrate any way we wanted.

We could hop a train to New York, join hundreds of thousands of strangers in Times Square, watch a ball drop down the side of a building, and head back home.

We could enjoy a great meal at a restaurant, surrounded by other diners. We could eat, chat and linger, then head to another spot for a nightcap.

And the next day, if we wanted, we could go to an open house with friends and relatives. We could invite neighbors over, for a spontaneous drink. We could skate at Longshore, watch a movie in a theater, or head back to New York for a game at the Garden.

Of course, we might not have been in Westport at all. Perhaps we were skiing in Vermont, out West or Europe. Maybe we were in Florida visiting parents or grandparents. We might have been in the Caribbean, soaking up sun before everyone had to be back in the office or at school.

New Year’s Day 2019 drew hordes of humans and dogs to Compo Beach (Photo/Tom Cook)

On December 31, 2019 we had never heard of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Or Wuhan, China.

We knew the words “lockdown” and “quarantine,” but they meant nothing to us.

If we ran out of toilet paper, we bought it without thinking. Nor did we think about (or look at) the clerk at CVS or Walgreens who rang it up.

We did not think about a lot of other things, either. For instance, everything schools do, besides education. Or the importance of daily routines, like working out at the gym, chatting with other parents at our kids’ bus stop, or getting coffee wherever.

We certainly did not think of doing certain things, a year ago. A walk or bike ride with the entire family? A night of board games? Running errands for neighbors? Pfffttt — who had time for such things?

Sherwood Farms Lane celebrated July 4th with a bike parade. (Photo/Mark Rubino)

What a difference a year makes.

The past year — which seems like 50 centuries — has been brutal. And I’m not even talking about other names we hadn’t heard of a year ago, like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Or about an election season that brought us to the brink of the end of democracy.

We’re still teetering there.

We made it — well, all of us except the 25 Westporters killed by the disease we had not heard of a year ago. And our 330,000-plus fellow Americans. And George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

And our belief in our nation as a special place, one with all the right values, where people take care of each other and look out for the rest of the world.

But as bad as this year has been, we’ve seen Westport at its best. Nearly every day, “06880” has included a story about individuals of all ages rising to meet difficult challenges, neighbors helping neighbors (and strangers), institutions pivoting to new ways to serve residents. Remarkable things happened — and I’m not just talking about a (very remarkable) drive-in theater.

The Remarkable Theater was also the scene of great concerts, produced by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

We lost proms and Homecomings, Memorial Day and the 4th of July, the Levitt and too many restaurants. We lost 9 months (and counting) of our lives, and we’ll never get those back.

But we gained some things too. We gained insights into ourselves. We gained a sense of community. We even gained a few restaurants. If that does not provide hope for the future, nothing will.

None of us would wish this past year on anyone. All of us look forward to 2021. Tomorrow, hindsight truly will be 2020.

When we gather a year from now, in this virtual space — looking forward to 2022 — let’s make sure we have learned the lessons of 2020.

They’re not all clear yet. Still, if we’ve learned nothing else from this past year, it’s this: The future is unknown. We may face challenges unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Yet together — as a community — we can overcome them. In the end, each of us is all we’ve got.


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