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A Family Travels Before and After(ish) a Global Pandemic


By Berkeley Hill

Disclaimer: I know that the pandemic isn’t over and that much of the world is still in restricted travel mode, so when I say “after the pandemic,” I mean it in the way I imagine New Zealanders probably meant it in the summer of 2020 (winter for them). They were going to concerts without masks while most of the world was still in lockdown. Were we mad at New Zealand? No, of course not. We lived vicariously through them and dreamed of better days ahead. But since my husband and I are now fully COVID vaccinated, we have felt comfortable traveling within the US. It was our turn to be New Zealand. Here’s a back-and-forth look at the last trip we took pre-pandemic and the first trip we took post-vaccination.

New York City, December 2019

I work for an airline, so we often fly standby. On our flight to NYC, two of my kids were sitting by strangers. It would have been all three of them if it weren’t for the eye-mask-wearing gentleman who had paid extra for an upgraded seat on a five-hour redeye flight and thought he’d be sitting next to an empty seat. He wasn’t thrilled about his last-minute assignment of opening snacks for an overtired four-year-old. This man kindly offered to switch seats with me. Don’t feel too bad for him: I was also sitting in an upgraded seat, so he didn’t miss out on anything but my child’s winning personality at 3 a.m.

Los Angeles, June 2021

Even though I work for an airline, we chose to drive to California from Utah. It seemed the safest option since our kids are all under age twelve and were then ineligible for COVID vacci- nation. Also, we have a pandemic-born dog. My husband and I both work from home, and this dog feels abandoned when we take out the trash. We love her so much. She’s too large to travel as a pet in cabin on most airlines, so even with my flight benefits, we may never fly again in her lifetime. Dogs are forever, not just for pandemics.

NYC, December 2019

I accidentally dropped half a Levain Bakery cookie on the floor of the A Train. The kids asked if we should still eat it. “Of course we should. Did you know there are kids in Utah who go to bed every night without eating Levain Bakery cookies?” They did know. They were those kids. They would be those kids again once we got home. We ate the subway-grime cookie. And it was delicious.

LA, June 2021

The kids felt that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art hand sanitizer was under-moistur- izing and smelled gross. They had to make do with only the five hand-sanitizing options in my bag. Our daughter chose the Bulgarian Lavender scent for its bonus calming effect, and the boys went with an ambitious mixture of Coastal Surf, Grapefruit Grove, and Peony Parade, probably because they miss the good old days of mixing every Slurpee flavor at 7-Eleven.

NYC, December 2019

Our December trip plan was to do Christ-masy (read: touristy) New York things the kids would enjoy. The list included ice skating in Central Park because we had watched Home Alone 2 on the airplane, visit- ing Macy’s Santaland to stand on the magic star and see Cher, pointing out our favorite miniature dogs at the toy train exhibit in Grand Central Station, and making bougie Christmas crafts at the Met to feel like we did something not from Home Alone 2. What we didn’t plan was for our trip to overlap with SantaCon, the annual pub crawl of San- ta-ly clad adults living their most carefree lives. SantaCon, while both Christmasy and touristy, is not for children. The first time we witnessed a “Santa” involuntarily purge her stomach of Christmas spirits, the kids looked worried and hoped “Ms. Claus” would be okay. We assured them she would feel better soon and advised of the likelihood of more Santa tummy troubles ahead. This led to a new family favorite game called “Is that smell SantaCon puke or Christmas Market raclette cheese?” You would be surprised how often we guessed wrong. Both smells were plentiful enough to play the game more than we wanted.

LA, June 2021

While Utah’s statewide mask mandate ended in April, California’s was still going strong
in early June, including an outdoor mask requirement. I wondered if any Californians actually wore masks outside. Just as we hit Orange County traffic, a motorcyclist passed us between lanes. This move seemed dangerous, but my husband pointed out that the man must prefer to live on the wild side, as he wasn’t wearing a helmet. But guess what he was wearing: an N95 mask. Leather jacket? Check. Fringe chaps? Check. Helmet? Absolutely not. Baby-blue surgi- cal-grade face covering? Double check. Way to play it safe, Cali.

I wonder at some (many) of our choices pre- COVID. When my son tripped and soaked his hands and knees in an NYC street puddle, we used a subway vent to dry him off. “Feel that warm, stinky air? That’s Ninja Turtle steam! You are the luckiest boy in the world.” He loved it. Would we do it again now? No. At least not until our preteen standard Ninjago humans are fully vaccinated. Should we have done it in the first place? Probably not. Time will tell if we’ve permanently learned to be cautious or if our safety phase overcorrects to a new dawn of YOLO.

Berkeley Hill (BA English, 2010) and her husband, Cody Hill (BA European Studies, 2012; MPA, 2015) live in Provo, Utah, with their three children.