pandemic diaries: month 13

Spring has sprung!

Poppies in full bloom at Serpentine Prairie.

I wasn't going to necessarily continue these pandemic diaries but it's been an eventful month since my last update marking 12 months of this, so let's make it a baker's dozen, shall we? The biggest development, after 384 days at home, is that one of two kids is now back at school, in-person, for 2+ hours a day, 2 afternoons a week. It's not much but it's better than nothing! 

Not surprisingly, she loves everything about it except for the fact that her older brother and I walk up the hill to fetch her at the end of the day, meaning she has to walk home. Downhill. It's pretty rough. It's only been two weeks - the week before Spring Break and today wrapping up the week after - and I don't expect anything more, either for her schedule or for the middle schooler, who's still in 100% remote instruction, for the remaining six weeks of this school year. Fingers and toes crossed for a full return to in-person instruction for all Oakland students in the fall.

I keep saying anything less will be a deal-breaker for me in terms of my willingness to remain in this city and perhaps even this state. Actually acting on that "threat" would, of course, be much harder to do, but as we've been somewhat casually looking in the Sacramento area for a few months now (feeling pretty lukewarm about the idea of ever moving there at this point), we decided to travel to Portland, Oregon over Spring Break to check out tentative relocation location number two. In a nutshell, we all loved it. 

Neal and Elias at Pittock Mansion, view of Portland in the background.

It helps that the weather was nearly perfect most of the time, but even figuring in the more typical rain, I think we were all ready to pack up and move there permanently by the end of our four-day visit. My favorite neighborhoods are those surrounding Grant Park, home of the Beverly Cleary sculpture garden. Cute houses on tree-lined streets walking distance to a really nice park and great schools...heck, Daphne would go to Beverly Cleary School, for cryin' out loud! It was good to get a feel for some of the other neighborhoods, as well, which we found to be fairly consistent with our general preference for more centrally located areas with walkability over bigger homes and lots in the more car-dependent suburban neighborhoods west of downtown.

A vegan strawberry cake made from scratch!

All that said, a day or two after we settled back in at home, I was feeling a renewed appreciation for Oakland and the Bay Area in general. Oakland, like probably any city, will wear you down after awhile. Violent crime is up, we can hear sideshows every weekend (sure, I made a 16 Candles inspired cake with an Oakland twist - sideshow + fireworks - pictured above, but that doesn't mean I want to experience them every weekend!), the school district is a hot mess, and now we seem to have an arsonist running around setting community institutions on fire! But I guess I'm trying to be really careful not to repeat - and impose on my family, no less - my usual response to conflict which is to run away from it. How do you double down on a place you love and commit to doing everything in your power to make it better, not just for yourself and your family, but for your entire community? That is not a rhetorical question so please, suggestions accepted in the comments below.

I guess one thing that I'm struggling a little bit with that I've been thinking about a lot since the one-year anniversary of the pandemic is how the past year has affected my relationships with the people here (we have no family in the area so we're not rooted here in that sense). Despite my attempts to reach out and find ways to stay in touch and, more recently, see more of people in-person, safely, there are "friends" I haven't seen since before the pandemic began. Are we still friends? Did the pandemic force folks to ghost their b-list relationships? Needless to say I, like many, I'm sure, am feeling quite a void where any sense of community used to be. And I'm not sure what to do with that realization. Not that moving and starting over would make the process of finding and keeping friends any easier, but I feel like that's essentially what I'm up against here, even though I've lived here for years. Is there a dating app for plutonic relationships? Can we start one??

Anyway, we also have a ton of other stuff going on and perhaps toward what finally appears to be light at the end of this long pandemic tunnel is not the best time to put the kids through still more uncertainty and transition. But we'll keep all options on the table and in the very least revisit the topic in 6-12 months if we're still feeling all these feels. That timeline may change depending on what happens with Oakland public schools in the fall.

Walking through an Olafur Eliasson piece at SFMOMA

Otherwise, following up from my one-year pandemic anniversary update, we've now been to the recently reopened SFMOMA and the Bedford Gallery (my family was even featured in their "family art day" social media coverage!). So lovely to see art again. 

We also saw an outdoor installation by Hank Willis Thomas (above, on view through May), who lived in this neighborhood (Temescal) when he attended CCA for grad school (he's otherwise NY-based), and we try to roll by the Roll Up Project whenever we're in Jack London Square. Renetta Sitoy's work is on view there now through mid-May.

In other viewing, we finished Schitt's Creek (loved it), WandaVision (meh, it was okay), and we're already almost done with The Knick (very intense, very good). What should we watch next?

PS - The above cake was made for our 16th wedding anniversary. 16 years (plus about 8 years before that) with this guy.

Multnomah Falls, about 35 minutes from Portland, OR

PPS - oh yeah, Easter. Neal was away most of the day dealing with the ongoing MIL sitch, but we did baskets in the morning and reserved egg dying/hunting for the late afternoon/evening when he returned, so it was all good. Pretty sure the gig is up, though, for the 8 year old, which is honestly fine by me. I'm not a very good liar.

PPPS - I get my first Pfizer shot on Sunday! Woo!!