Friday, March 19, 2021

A Light at the End of the Horizon

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The photo above is a screen shot from the 39th floor in Ari’s soon-to-be-vacated flat in London. He has been quarantining with this beautiful view for almost a year and a half now, with the exception of about a month spent here with us in Florida, as explained in my previous blog post. Last March, he, Jessica, and Sami, unexpectedly, had to high-tail it home from Taiwan where Sami had just begun a year abroad program a few months earlier because all travel was being curtailed due to the pandemic. The flat is “soon-to-be-vacated” because just about everything has changed in the last year since the pandemic began. This beautiful flat, with a gorgeous view of the river Thames and the city of London became claustrophobic after a few months of serious lockdown. Everyone began to long for outdoor spaces that could be accessed without taking the risk of contaminated elevators, hallways, and surfaces. Ari’s new home will be in a lovely mews house on a secluded cobblestone street with access to one of the most beautiful parks in London. Now that he has his new job that is completely remote at EPIQ, he will be in a dedicated office space at home, instead of a makeshift setup in his dining/living room area. I believe the only thing he will miss is this view.

By comparison, the pandemic has not been terribly hard on us here in Florida. We haven’t been cooped up, as many have, by bad weather, tight quarters, or small spaces. And now, contrary to the inefficiency with which Florida usually runs, (drum roll please!) the state has been the model of efficiency in rolling out the vaccine. Saul and I (as of last month!) have had both our shots of the Pfizer vaccine with practically no hassle. We went online, booked two appointments together, and were given a QR code to photograph with our phones. Pulling into the Orlando Convention Center at the appointed time (directed very efficiently by newly-erected road signage) our codes were checked as we entered and we snaked around for about 20 minutes. Entering the under-building garage, our codes were read by scanning guns, we were directed to lines depending on whether we were receiving shot 1 or 2, and a sticker was printed out and affixed to our clothing. Then we were directed to one of ten stations administering the vaccine. Our codes were again scanned, we were asked which arm we preferred to have the shot in, we got our shot, a super-hero band-aid, and even a lollipop! Then, we were directed to a parking lot outside where we were told to flash our emergency lights and lean on the horn if there was any problem that developed. After waiting the suggested 15 minutes, we left, our codes again checked by a monitor to make sure we had waited the appointed amount of time. On our second shot, handled the same way as the first, we were given a packet of surgical masks to take home. We feel incredibly lucky! In addition, Jessica and Alex (by virtue of working in schools) have now received both shots. Ari, in keeping with England’s policy has received his first, then Sami got her first, the next scheduled for April 8.

Since everyone left in January, we have been continuing with our year-long pandemic schedule with me preoccupied with my blogs (I’m very proud that I got my book, "Bubbie’s Kitchen” online and it is better than ever before), Saul and Sami with remotely teaching Religious School, and Sami taking her classes at New College remotely. Saul and I take walks around the neighborhood, during which we often see some interesting wildlife and do laps in our pool, weather permitting. I also have been continuing with my violin lessons, taught remotely by the remarkable Jennifer Christie from her quarantined quarters in London. One light at the end of the horizon is that Jennifer has been called back to socially-distanced rehearsals with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. Millions of people in the U.K. have already received their vaccinations! We are also excited because Jennifer and her boyfriend, Steve, got engaged on Valentine’s day. Soon, they may actually be able to schedule a wedding!

Last year, the day of my birthday was a normal and lovely celebration that began with our favorite breakfast buffet at Boma in Animal Kingdom Lodge, followed by an incredible dinner prepared by our friend Susan, who, with her husband, Ted, moved here at our and her brother’s urging from Chicago a few year’s ago. That was a Thursday evening. The following day, I prepared Shabbat dinner for our little havurah, which was our custom, and announced that because of concerns about gatherings due to the pandemic, I would be suspending our weekly dinners until further notice. Little did we all suspect that the next regular Friday night dinner (at which we celebrated my birthday) would be exactly one year later! It was such a joy to be able to hug and kiss one another after lighting the Shabbat candles as we all have now had our vaccinations!

We had a very scaled-back Tu B’Shevat seder back in January and baked the usual hamantaschen to put into mishloach manot packages for Purim in February. All our religious services, except one, have been on Zoom. Izzy read the Megillah back in New Jersey, and we were pleased to be able to Zoom in to their services as well as our own. We braved attending the actual, physical synagogue on a Saturday morning, after our first vaccination, to attend the adult bat mitzvah of our new friend, Jodie, whom we met on Zoom this year attending classes and services. It was our first, in person, meeting. The synagogue had opened up the entire sanctuary, and with its high ceilings, and a dozen masked socially-distanced congregants, we felt pretty secure.

Another benefit of Zooming during the pandemic has been to be able to rejoin a Bible class that I attended for 20 years, before moving to Florida, taught by my good friend, Faith. At its inception, there were some Thursday mornings when only I showed up and we had a private session. As the years went by, news traveled, and now the class has grown to some 30 or 40 members, many of whom I hadn’t seen in almost eight years. Two weeks ago, we finished studying the Five Books of Moses and have gone on to study the book of Joshua. We all celebrated together online with a treat of our choice.

If you check out the photos above, you will see that we have been greatly enjoying our Florida gardens. Our mango, citrus, avocado and peach trees are loaded with developing fruit. Susan and Ted had planted Meyer lemon trees. The fruit matured last month and we produced the most delicious Meyer lemon, Ginger and Cardamom cookies with the bounty. I also ordered new Tommy Bahama solar lights from Costco to go around our pool screens and they are even better than we imagined at night, reflecting off our pool. Haley and Eric, who couldn’t join us for my 2021 birthday dinner, invited us to the palatial home they rented a few miles away during the pandemic. Haley, who is a brilliant cook, made a remarkable birthday dinner for me that checked all the boxes for vegan and oil free and was absolutely stunning and delicious. The one note that is not bright for me is that they are moving back to Philadelphia in May. But having gotten a several months taste of Florida life, we all hope they will become “snow birds” in the future.

As I write this, we are about to begin our preparations for this year’s Passover seder. Jess and the girls are flying down in a few days and will be here for an indefinite period of time as Yona will be able to finish this school year remotely. On the horizon, right now, it looks as though schools will be able to resume in September, Disney World will begin to get back to its usual operations, hiring back its cast members that have been furloughed, it will no longer be a danger to go into restaurants and shops, Saul and I will be able to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary, Jessica and Alex’s twenty-fifth, and Sami’s 21st birthday in August, and everyone will be able to travel and enjoy each other as they have in the past. May the worst be over as of this writing so that we may enjoy the light on the horizon with a greater appreciation and more peace in the world.