Covid-19 Times

An Auspicious Anniversary

January 2020 • Road to California, where I showed Jen Kingwell my completed Small World Quilt

February 2020, QuiltCon: Shown here finishing my first block in Yvonne’s class (QuiltingJetGirl)

March 2020 • Quilt Guild Lecturing and Teaching

And then March 19, 2020, I post up the Milmore Memorial, as all of a sudden we are aware that the Angel of Death, bearing her poppies, will be stopping many of us mid-gesture.

March 31, 2020 • This becomes my nightly reading. Covid is real, even though we hardly know what it is.

All these musings were inspired by three things: a few random “Where were you in March 2020?” Instagram posts, my friend Laurel sending me a picture of her Small World quilt, newly hand-quilted and finished that very night, and an article titled “Three Years into Covid, We Still Don’t Know How to Talk About It,” by Jon Mooallem and published in the New York Times, the place that was kind of the horrific epicenter to the quake that still rattles the United States.

“The [NYC Covid-19 Oral History, Narrative and Memory Archive] makes clear that, with respect to Covid — with respect to so much — we are a society of anecdotes without a narrative. The only way to understand what happened, and what’s still happening, is to acknowledge that it depends on whom you ask. People’s experiences were affected by their race, ethnicity, wealth, occupations, whether they had children at home. But they also turned on more arbitrary factors, or even dumb luck, like if someone happened to be living with a sort-of-annoying roommate in March 2020…. A man compared the pandemic to a game of musical chairs: The virus shut off the music; you were stuck where you were stuck.

Now, it’s as though we’ve been staring into a fun-house mirror for a long time and our vision is correcting — but it’s correcting imperfectly, so that we may not pick up on all the bulges and dents. We are awash in what [Ryan] Hagen referred to as an “onslaught of narrative repair,” scattershot attempts to clarify or justify our experiences, assignments of blame, misunderstandings and misinformation flying in all directions. It will play out and reverberate for years or decades.”

from here

I don’t have any brilliant thing to add to this article (which, you should read, all the way to the end, even though it has a slow start), but it made me realize that we’d all been through this incredible experience — or experiences (as everyone’s was so individual) — and unlike those in the article, I realized quilters (who by our very natures are the type to sit inside away from everyone and sew) might have their own dialogue to add.

“At first, the pandemic seemed to create potential for some big and benevolent restructuring of American life. But it mostly didn’t happen. Instead, she said, we seemed to treat the pandemic as a short-term hiccup, no matter how long it kept dragging on, and basically waited it out. “We didn’t strive to change society,” she told me. “We strived to get through our day.” Marooned in anomie and instability, we built little, rickety bridges to some other, slightly more stable place. “It’s amazing that something this dramatic could happen, with well over a million people dead and a public health threat of massive proportions, and it really didn’t make all that much difference,” Swidler said. “Maybe one thing it shows us is that the general drive to normalize things is incredibly powerful, to master uncertainty by feeling certain enough.”

(see above for citation)

I got through my covid days by quilting, and it was instructive to look back through the pages of this record, to see how I tried to “build little rickety bridges to some other, slightly more stable place.” I generally was very lucky: a lovely home, with lots of supplies, a supportive husband, and an ability to isolate away until the vaccine came (for me) in January 2021, a relief and a welcome day. Maybe quilting is well-suited to helping us cope with our “drive to normalize things” — cutting patches, sewing them together, using the well-established tools of social media to keep us connected on one level, even though all the social aspects: guild meetings, classes, retreats, and sewing groups went by the way.

Orange County Quilt Guild March 2020, before the meeting started

Their use of the word anomie is intriguing, and loosely, it can be defined as “normlessness,” meaning “that the underlying rules are just not clear…Anomie sets in when a society’s values, routines and customs are losing their validity but new norms have not yet solidified. “The scale is upset,” [the early French author] Durkheim wrote, “but a new scale cannot be immediately improvised. …The limits are unknown between the possible and the impossible.”

When Laurel sent me her photo Thursday night, she bridged a time from 2015, when Jen Kingwell’s pattern was published in QuiltMania, to September 2019, when Paula James (@the_secret_sewer) and Nicola Kelly (@nicola_picola_) challenged us all in to finish these quilts, leading a quilt-a-long on Instagram. I finished mine in time to post with Jen Kingwell (top of the post) just before we were all slammed.

A well-known bridge on California’s I-15

I like to think of our quilts as those bridges, helping find our way back to civility, to health, and even to mask making (our batik fabrics were champs!). I hope we continue to figure out how to write and think about what we all went through, sharing our individual experiences with acceptance and kindness. And I hope we keep quilting!

17 thoughts on “An Auspicious Anniversary

  1. Road 2020 – my last big trip! Seems both a minute and forever ago. For me, Covid had a way of accordioning time – stretching it out endlessly and compressing it to a blip. I was fortunate, too – I actually love staying home and PPP kept the business going through the worst of it. I laugh when I think of our March 2020 preparations for a “brief” shutdown. Signage and sanitizer….

  2. Thanks for your insight on the auspicious anniversary of Covid. It will be one of those times when we say “Where were you when the world shut down?” Being a substitute teacher, I remember the Friday when we were told the school will be closed for an extra week of Spring Break. That turned into about a year before we were partially back in the classroom. In between was a lot of learning of new technology on how to keep kids learning while not ‘in school’.
    As a quilter, that technology was used to bring teaching from all over the world available through Zoom which is ongoing!

  3. The bride idea hit me as funny because in those early days, March 16 to April 17, 2020, I worked at the local emergency operation center. To get there, you have to drive across this little but sturdy bridge. The scary part is the one-lane road winding up the hill.

    Saturday, March 14, I was visiting Quilt in a Day, when I started getting calls from colleagues on how to access programs because they were up on the hill.

    I never would have guessed how long this virus would stick around or that I would have had a baby, just as you were likely getting your vaccine.

    And now, I’ve just finished my second battle against COVID. Beware the ides of March indeed.

  4. What to say. I still have friends catching Covid but no one I know wearing a mask anymore. I made way too many, given to whoever wanted one. They were hard to breathe in. I didn’t mind staying home more. I do mind it took my neighbor, my friend, brother in law and my Dad. A very greedy disease.
    I love your small world quilt 🥰

  5. What to say. Another thought provoking post Elizabeth. I was so lucky on so many fronts around Covid. No school kids or elderly parents to worry about. Healthy adult children who were able to continue working. I’m a natural home body so staying home didn’t phase me. I rarely think about Covid anymore. Hubs and I both had it last Nov. Thankfully nothing serious. I don’t believe we’ll ever ever know the whole truth of Covid. I hope we learned things and will handle things better but I’m not confident in that either. I don’t dwell in the past. It’s better for my mental health.

  6. We are still grappling with how to interact and be social. Given that my husband has permanent lung damage and that he is allergic to ingredients in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, we are still opting to mask and isolate. I keep wondering what the rush to return to normal is all about. The human animal is a complicated one, and it is even more complex to work together collectively in this very interconnected world we have created.

  7. The first week of March 2020 my quilt mini-group was having a wonderful time at our annual quilt retreat. We didn’t have TV or radios, but heard from someone’s husband about the cruise ships being docked for an unknown amount of time. It seemed so strange to us as we didn’t have any idea why and like everyone else we didn’t know how our lives would be altered. I can’t imagine living in 1918 through the influenza pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus. 2020 and 2021 were hard enough. My best moment during covid was June 2, 2021, my first day of retirement !

  8. It’s interesting to read your recollections and even those of the commenters here. I remember going back to school in February after our Summer vacation and we were already talking about this mysterious virus that could kill so easily. Perhaps because of our proximity to China? I know by 20th March my overseas holiday to Italy had been cancelled and I said on my blog, “Quilters have been in training for years for this isolation.” And boy, did we isolate!
    I don’t believe, however, that we are out of the woods yet! Our weekly numbers in Australia, not daily ones like we had for so long, have skyrocketed and scientists have detected covid in mice…an unusual occurrence to have a virus jump species.
    On a brighter note, I did look back at my Small World quilt and found I had finished mine by June 2015! And I felt a wee bit smug too!

  9. I just finished reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a story about a virus (from Russia) that wipes about pretty much the entire world. I initially thought it was probably written during 2020 when many authors had so much time. It kind of freaked me out to find out it was released in 2014-2015! It brought back so many memories of our actual shutdown, all the manufacturing, travel, everything, that ground to a complete halt, but what it would have looked like on an even more massive scale.

  10. I still wear a mask sometimes and expect to do so indefinitely. I hope one result of the pandemic will be a new norm in which people are expected to self-isolate when ill, even if it’s “just a cold”. The old norm of “go to work sick or you’re a wimp” was counterproductive. If that changes, it will be a practical benefit of all this.

  11. I’m just catching up on my blog reading after vacation; your excellent post is a great reminder of what we’ve just been through and aren’t really done with yet. It prompted me to read the NYT article. The damages – not just death – are legion and many of us are still grappling with them. Personally, as a retired physician, I had hoped the pandemic would bring much needed changes to our broken health care system, but, discouragingly, greed, corporate power, and entrenched habits are hard nuts to crack. I’m continually grateful for the comfort of quilting in my life!

  12. Every single thing in my life changed three years ago. So many changes are for the better and a few are not. There is no going back and I don’t want to.

  13. Hi, Elizabeth:

    I’m a friend of your sister Susan and have been following your blog for a while.  I wonder if you have the Small World pattern for sale?  Or the source?  My daughter-in-law is All Things Disney—

    Stephanie Magleby Sent from my iPad

    Sent from my iPad


    div dir=”ltr”>


    blockquote type=”cite”>

  14. I wanted to do that Small World quilt! I was too late to the party and the pattern was sold out. We recovering from our second bout of Covid.

Your turn to have a say:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s