By Audrey ’21 and Catherine ’21
March 13, 2020. The fateful day that altered the way we learn, socialize, and live our lives. What started as a seemingly harmless two-week break turned into a year-long whirlwind of historical event after historical event. From the rapid spread of Covid-19 to our nation’s confrontation with social justice and racism, we’ve been through a lot. Now, the UV wants to take a look back at this past year to acknowledge the lessons we’ve learned as we look to the future with optimism.
Julia ’26, Maniya ’26, Kaelyn ’21, History instructor Anna Robinson and Head of School Priscilla Sands reflect on this unusual year:
Q: What hobbies did you pick up during quarantine?
Kaelyn: I made a quarantine bucket list, but the only thing that I actually completed was “make a funfetti cake from a box.” I fancied myself a baker; I was not. I also had a brief online shopping addiction, which I think we all did, but my mom quickly put an end to it when she started checking my credit card statements. I got running shoes and didn’t run. I wanted to start investing… I didn’t. This is just a list of things I wanted to do but didn’t. Animal Crossing was like the only thing that was by my side. I currently have, to date, 530 hours logged on that, within the span of 3 or 4 months. It was my little island escape, my little getaway.
Robinson: I have always wanted to garden, but I never really had the time. So, I have thrown myself fully into my garden. It’s great! I compost and I am just really into it. I have some beautiful herbs growing, I have some snap peas that are coming in. That part is lovely and I will continue that, hopefully. Also, I have had more time to exercise. It used to be this thing that I had to fit in and find time for and now it really is that break that I have. It’s a chance to get out of the house. I hope that continues too.
Sands: During quarantine, the thing that I did was exercise. All the time. So, at first I thought if I went swimming in the pool, Covid would attack me from the air. I didn’t know! I would do that, and I would go for long walks, still scared to be outside, but in a mask, and then I’d wash all my clothes. And then at night John and I did puzzles, and we watched so many different series…. He, on the other hand, started cooking and baking. And the other day I came in, and he was sitting on the sofa churning butter. I said, ‘are you kidding me? You’re what? You’re churning butter? Do you think this is Little House on the Prairie?” I felt like I was a survivalist.
Q: What is your favorite memory from the past year?
Julia: Probably celebrating my birthday. Even though it was during quarantine, my parents and my family tried their best to make it really special for me!
Kaelyn: I got Nilla, my dog. I got to spend a lot of time with her which was fun. Another silver lining, this is a little bit sappy, but spending time with my family before I leave [for college]. I also liked the social distance picnics when I could see everybody.
Sands: There were a couple of things. One personal, one professional. The professional piece of it was I actually had really good conversations with students on Zoom… it was really great to connect. And then I wrote those stupid stories. Well, you know, I figured, it was the least I could do to connect with you. And I thought, if I gave you something to make fun of, that was good. You could be uniform in making fun of me… On a personal note, my children, it was hard not seeing my kids for a year, but we had a weekly Zoom meeting because one of my sons was having a very hard time. And it just became one of those funny things we looked forward to and it made us laugh. And, as you know, I’m retiring next year and so it was nice to realize that the person I’m retiring with is somebody that I could happily spend time with.
Q: If you could describe your quarantine in one word, what would you choose and why?
Maniya: I would describe quarantine as “eye-opening” because I realized that I have to be grateful for the ‘normal’ times we had and not take them for granted.
Robinson: I would say “family” because as much as my concern is always work, I knew this year was really all about keeping my family together, motivated, inspired, optimistic and safe. So, I think in that year it was definitely about finding that balance and making sure that my family was safe and happy.
Julia: Probably “unique” because it truly has been a unique year. Even though everyone’s quarantine is different from one another’s, we are still all going through it together.
Kaelyn: Sticky. The hand sanitizer.
Q: A year ago at this time, what were you thinking? What concerns were on your mind?
Julia: I was mostly thinking about school just because, at the time, we hadn’t gotten any news about whether or not we were returning to campus. I was also very worried about the future because I was ending off my year in 6th grade and was going to start at a different school. I didn’t know how hard it would be to adjust and learn the things I needed to learn.
Kaelyn: I wasn’t worried, I was excited. Freedom, being at home, not going to school, have a little mid-second semester break. My mom didn’t let me leave the house anymore when the Costco stockpiling started. Looking back, we were simultaneously overreacting and underreacting. It wasn’t like we were about to get nuked, which is what it felt like in my house. At the same time, I know a lot of people who just randomly got Covid early on.
Robinson: I was thinking, ‘how do I continue to connect with my students in a virtual environment?’ That was my biggest concern. Also, ‘how do I help my own children work through all of these challenges?”
Sands: In April, we had been off for a few weeks, my desk was absolutely in piles with information from Johns Hopkins, from every doctor I knew, from every hospital. I was reading everything– we knew nothing about Covid, except that it was really scary. We were sanitizing our mail, if we went outside we were washing our clothes… it felt like we were living in a bubble… Quite honestly, I assumed that by graduation we would be back to normal. I heard someone say that School Heads should get an associates degree in epidemiology because anyone asks me about Covid, I could go on and on. I think the thing that we don’t stop and remember is that we were trying to deal with something about which none of us had any information. Nothing. We knew nothing.
Q: Do these initial worries seem far away now?
Maniya: I think those worries do seem far away because I have made so many great friends at my short (and online) time at Marlborough. Although Covid is still something that lingers in the back of everyone’s mind, I feel that things are starting to become safer!
Robinson: I think the worries are more or less the same. I have more concerns about our ability to come back on the other side of this with our humanity fully intact; our ability to communicate with another, to support one another to give each other grace. These are the things I am more concerned about now that we are out in the real world and seeing each other and it’s not just this virtual environment.
Q: How have you grown or changed since March of 2020?
Maniya: I think I have grown as a person mainly because I have become more social and am more willing to connect with new people.
Kaelyn: Oh, another sappy answer. I’ve begun to realize the importance of family. At the same time, sometimes I like them less… I guess I never really liked hugs, but now hugs are nice. I’m growing to love them.
Robinson: I have become more appreciative of things that I took for granted, that I didn’t even know were things to take for granted. Looking back now, I am far more grateful and appreciative of everything.
Q: If you could give yourself a year ago a piece of advice, what would it be?
Julia: I learned to be grateful for having a healthy body and a roof over my head. I also learned that we take so many things for granted when we should be thankful for the things we have.
Robinson: Take a deep breath. Just get ready and just relax into it and know that everything’s going to be okay.
Sands: I think one of the things that I didn’t mention was that I read constantly. And it was a reminder how much I gain from reading and so, I think to myself ‘it will get better.’ Life will get better, and weird and at a significant inflection point, and maybe we needed it, maybe we have to use this time and just to breathe. And the irony of that expression is not lost on me. Because if I can say that to myself, that has to be the goal for every single person. And then we think of the people who couldn’t breathe. I think it really felt like if I could say that I hope that we will continue rather than worry about the day-to-day, to think big picture. Because there’s a lot to do, right?