Is there a better way to start our annual “year in photos” collection than with the screenshot of our Zoom Mother’s Day brunch? In May of this Year of the Quarantine we gathered to celebrate from the four corners of the world — well, actually, London (Andrew); Silver Spring (Candice and David); and Berkeley (Claire, Blair Kittle, and Chai) — using an online tool we didn’t know existed at this time last year. That’s 2020 for you.
As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I once again return to the roots of this blog as a way of sharing family stories and trips. While the focus of the blog has changed over time, I continue my annual tradition of posting family photographs from the past year on More to Come.
After living through one of the worst years in recent memory, we remember the heartbreak and loss for millions around the globe. But it is also important to use this time to focus on those things for which we can be thankful in 2020. And for me, that begins with family, friends, and community.
We would usually be getting in the car this week to drive to Staunton to spend the weekend of Thanksgiving with our dear friends, Margaret and Oakley Pearson at their “family and friends” celebration. Here’s the view from 2019, showing about two-thirds of those who joined in the feast. We will miss seeing all these lovely people in 2020, but are already anticipating a return next year.
While in Staunton last November, the three founders of the Table Grace catering service — Mary Rust, Margaret Pearson, and Candice (l to r) — had a mini-reunion at the Shenandoah vineyard owned by Mary’s boys.
After the excitement of the Washington Nationals run to the 2019 World Series championship, I was all set for the 2020 season and a chance to visit some more of the baseball parks on my bucket list. Claire gave me this cool map at Christmas to chart my progress, and I’m now two-thirds of the way through visiting all 30 stadiums. Alas, with the pandemic baseball cut back to a shortened season and eliminated all fans in the parks…so I haven’t made any progress on my quest. I’ve used that old baseball cry, “Wait ’til next year!” as I have surveyed my lost season. (That will have to be the Nats mantra as well, as they didn’t make the playoffs this year…but that’s okay. The season was so weird that it hardly counts — except for Dodger fans.)
Our 2020 plans called for multiple trips to London and California to visit Andrew and Claire, but it turned out that the visit over Christmas and New Years 2019 was the only time all four of us were in the same town…until next month, when we’ll all be together for the twins’ birthday and Christmas. We were able to celebrate Andrew and Claire’s 27th birthday last December at Pesce in Dupont Circle, where we had some birthday crumble.
Andrew had a busy fall and winter at the Royal College of Music. In November he sang in a production of Haydn’s Il mondo della luna, and then in January he had the role of Adolfo Pirelli in Sweeney Todd. Andrew was all set to sing the role of the clockmaker Torquemada in the college’s production of Ravel’s L’heure espagnole when COVID closed down London the day of the dress rehearsal.
In March we were beginning to hear premonitions in the U.S. about a possible shutdown because of coronavirus. That made my 65th birthday celebration at A Rake’s Progress the last time we made it out to eat in a restaurant for quite a while. Unfortunately, this delightful DC eatery was a COVID casualty, so our meal there — where they were already serving at socially distanced tables — was among the last. So many wonderful businesses have fallen during this pandemic, hitting service industry personnel especially hard.
And then lockdown came…and my Nationals celebration took on this look.
In the early days of the quarantine, all sorts of things were in short supply. Claire scored some highly-sought-after toilet paper, while I made sure my quarantine supply cabinet was well stocked at home!
Work became weird in 2020 as well. In a bit of impeccable timing, I launched my new consulting business — Bearden Brown LLC — on March 1st and used the photo below taken by Claire as my professional head shot. The name comes from our family. Bearden is my father’s maternal family name (as well as the middle name for both my father and son), while the Brown…well you can guess where that came from. Even with the bad timing, I have wonderful clients who are giving me the opportunity to work on exciting projects around the globe, made all the more relevant due to the health and racial justice crises.
Claire finished up her first year of counseling in the Oakland school system in May and then began her second year there this fall. Working with children can be difficult when you are in the same room, so having to work last spring and this fall online is taxing. Many of us can relate to Claire’s work situation, as she handles her clients by Zoom…with a little help from Chai.
Candice and I have largely stayed at home since March 13th, and we give thanks every day for our deck, which provides an “outdoor” room that we have used extensively. For Candice’s birthday in late May we picked up take out at Pesce (see a pattern here, it is one of our favorite restaurants) and enjoyed the feast on our deck. I was also a busy grill man over the summer, none better than the Father’s Day feast we savored in June. Once we decided we could take a chance at dining out again, we went directly to Pesce, as well as to a few great Baltimore restaurants to eat with our friends John, Bizzy, and Mary Lane during John’s treatments. Those were meals and times we will always treasure, as we lost John to cancer in September. He was a great influence in all our lives.
All of us have worked to get outside for fresh air and exercise. Candice and I took our bikes out a couple of times, but tried to walk every day. Andrew was a regular traveling the streets of London on foot (even visiting quarantined friends from a distance), and has been out on his bike since moving to Baltimore in September. Claire and her friends Hannah (shown below) and Charlie have hiked many weekends in the beautiful woods and landscapes of the Bay area.
When he returned from London at the end of August, Andrew moved to Baltimore, where he lives with his partner Mark in a rowhouse in the hip Hampden neighborhood. We have visited them a few times and are enjoying exploring a range of Baltimore restaurants (or at least those with outdoor seating).
What would a year in photos post be without a shot of the grandkids? Chai (Claire’s cat) gives us a glamour pose. Flour (Mark’s dog who lives with Mark and Andrew) shows off a pensive moment.
I have written so much about the election in other posts, that all I plan to say here is that we did our job, voting in early October to change the direction of the country.
Andrew, Mark, and Flour took a road trip to Michigan this fall to see Mark’s family and to give Andrew his first trip to the Upper Peninsula (known locally as the U.P.). All reported that they had a grand visit.
As Halloween rolled around in Silver Spring, the parents in our townhouse community who have small children at home came up with the wonderful idea of a costume parade. All the residents turned out on their decks to cheer and we came up with a variety of ways to get candy into those trick-or-treat bags in the safest way possible. It was a festive event and will probably change how the community celebrates the holiday in the future.
In spite of all the hurt, hate, and loss in America and around the world, I am incredibly thankful for our family and the many ways we are blessed. Connecting with thoughtful friends and readers on More to Come through this challenging year has helped see me through. I appreciate your taking the time to read.
We remain grateful for each of you and the friendships we share. Happy Thanksgiving to all.
More to come…
Photo at top of the Browns, December 2019, credit Ellen Pentz