My pandemic life has not gone as expected.
As I write this at the end of August 2021, I’m thinking back to a year ago. I was in Israel, the place I’ve called home since 2007. While my pandemic life was going as well as could be expected, I felt an itch for a change of scenery – a true novelty in the COVID-era.
On top of that, I really wanted to take my annual trip to Providence – mostly to see my family, but also to enjoy things such as a New England summer on the East Side of Providence.
The original plan was to come on Aug. 2, 2020. However, due to things such as aspects of the virus still being unclear, not wanting to jeopardize my family’s health, and the vaccine being a mere glimmer in our eyes, my plans for August 2020 did not come to fruition.
The months passed, we understood COVID-19 a bit better, and my parents and I came up with a plan: I could safely quarantine in their neighbor’s furnished attic.
I spoke with my boss, requesting a two-month working holiday in the U.S. (On average, I spend three weeks here during my annual visits – but that timeframe would be a waste of time and money if I spent two weeks in quarantine.) Since I had the ability to work from home, my boss agreed to the extended visit.
My journey, obviously, began with airline travel. I was impressed by how Delta Airlines enforced every precaution to minimize the risk of COVID transmission, even if it meant waking a sleeping passenger to tell them to put their mask back on.
The two weeks in quarantine flew by. It was odd staying on the street where I grew up but not sleeping in my own home. Fortunately, my hosts were nothing short of incredible and never made me feel like a burden.
My quarantine overlapped with Sukkot. My parents and sister would call me to my third-floor window as they’d walk home from shul with friends. If only I had a dollar for every time someone made a Rapunzel joke ….
After quarantine, my true visit began. I took many pleasant walks in the neighborhood I grew up in – and with added appreciation due to my COVID confinement.
Weeks passed. Then months. What was meant to be a two-month visit was extended to four months, then six, and so on and so forth. My boss was satisfied with how I was able to negotiate the seven-hour time difference with my work in Israel. I found an amazing tenant who, without even meeting, I was able to trust with my room and personal belongings in Israel.
Each time I extended my visit to Providence, it was for different reasons; not wanting to arrive in Israel during yet another lockdown, the airport in Israel closing, not wanting to spend Pesach in a quarantine hotel, being able to get the vaccine here and return fully vaccinated (after all of my friends had already gotten it in Israel), etc.
During my time here, I was able to spend quality time with my family, particularly with my parents, without having to worry when I’d see them again. I finished the first draft of my first (complete) novel, which I’d been working on for years. Something about being in the home where I first discovered my love of creative writing helped catapult me to that completion.
And, most importantly, I became an uncle, and was able to meet my new nephew without having to worry about international travel restrictions.
This July was the 14-year anniversary of my aliyah (immigration) to Israel. And although I missed a lot about Israel, such as my social life, perhaps the pandemic gave me an excuse to have a long-overdue sabbatical. Everything I have mentioned above, plus the little things, such as Providence looking like a wonderland in winter and the summer crickets chirping as I write this, reminds me of why I love, and miss, the city where I grew up.
Now it’s time for my return to Israel. It was inevitable, since that is where home is now. And the gift that this crazy COVID year has given me will help me begin the next chapter of my 14-year journey in Israel.
DANIEL STIEGLITZ (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a corporate recruiter and certified Life Coach who lives in Jerusalem. His collection of short stories, “Tavern of the Mind,” is available for paperback and Kindle purchase at Amazon. www.amzn.to/2Izssrz.