2020—what a strange year! One day, I’m at school in a classroom full of friends. The next, I’m stuck at home, learning all alone. I’m far away from what I knew. The world isn’t turning. Am I standing still? Can anyone see me?

I can see my teacher singing on the screen, but sometimes she just disappears. I wonder where she went. My internet is spotty and technology so tricky. Can they really hear me, or should I try un-mute? I better double-check, before I fall behind.

I can see my friend playing at the park, but it’s really hard to spot a smile beneath that mask, six feet apart. Yet, he can’t hide his eyes, exploding with excitement. Finally together, we swing and slide and run and roam til our bodies tire.

I can see my grandma waving in the window, but no longer can I reach my favorite cookie drawer. I dream of its chocolate smell, if only in my mind, and read her lips say, “I love you,” through glass not made for hugging.

There is so much I can see, but so much I cannot. I cannot see this sickness; is it in the air we breathe? Maybe in the hospital, where that lady moved? Or maybe with that man, handing me the mail? I know it’s on the news, before the channel turns. I know it’s on your mind, adding to the stress. Maybe even in those tears, falling on the laundry.

I want to make it go away, the way you try for me.

You never let me feel alone or cry all by myself. For when the world walked away, you stayed along with me, becoming everything I needed most—the teacher I missed, the friend I wanted, the family I loved.

It was you who baked the cake for my canceled party, turned on the music for the missed dance, and found a million other, more creative ways to celebrate the “big” events. With holidays altered and more time to ourselves, we colored the most beautiful Easter eggs, spied the brightest fireworks, carved the scariest pumpkins, gobbled up the tastiest turkey, and frosted the yummiest Christmas cookies.

Life shut down, but living never did. You taught me how to slow down into the stillness of our new normal.

When I listened closer, I heard the different calls of birds in the woods. I felt water splashing, leaves crunching, and snow melting. I looked for hours on end at a difficult puzzle and watched my caterpillar turn into a butterfly. I smelled the campfire and tasted an apple straight from its tree.

While I learned from nature, you created a makeshift classroom at home. Tables turned into school desks and flower vases became volcanoes. Multiplication tricks were recalled and new math learned—by both you and me. You corrected my spelling, listened to my stories, picked up the pieces of my broken heart, and glued them all back together. You restored my lost connection. You saw me.

I saw you, too.

I saw you put food on the neighbor’s doorstep, make sanitizer when the stores were out, and place hearts in the front window. When life turned upside down, the world stopped moving and time stood still, I saw that I never should. I should keep going, just like you.

2020 was a strange year, full of fear and change—but in this year, we found resilience. Simplicity. Hope. Love. We found each other. We found God.

PS – Here are 11 reasons the new year will be better. 

Amber Backus

I am a journalist turned stay-at-home mommy to four children, three sons and one daughter. These days, naptime is the perfect time to return to my first love of writing.