Bob Dorobis plays his guitar at his home in Middletown, NJ, on December 4. Dorobis has redoubled her efforts to learn fingerpicking during the pandemic. (Jeanann Dorobis via Associated Press)
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NEW YORK – Dust off old musical instruments, enjoy the outdoors in a more meaningful way, throw away hair dye and let the gray fade away forever.
The pandemic has disrupted our traditions, practices and activities, how we mark milestones, what we do with our time, what is important in routines. He replaced the old with the new, a sort of new that could remain.
Nearly three years after the World Health Organization declared the deadly spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, there’s a lot of old life mixed in with the new. And, yes, the latter includes a whole bunch of still-ongoing zooms between families, colleagues and friends, near and far.
Here’s a look at the pandemic passions that, for some, are here to stay:
That sax in the corner. The piano that looks so beautiful in the living room but has rarely been played. People have taken up their instruments, some after decades, to flex their musical muscles.
They are not looking for a concert career, but they devote themselves to their rediscoveries.
Bob Dorobis in Middletown, New Jersey, has been working hard to improve his guitar playing during the pandemic after a long hiatus. Now the 70-year-old software developer looks forward to more practice time in retirement.
“When your fingering sounds good, it’s very rewarding,” he said. “I finally realized that the only way for me to love it better is to learn it better.”
The post-lockdown economy hasn’t been kind to Peloton as its stock plummeted as many pandemic newbies lost their mojo. Many, but not all. We have newcomers who are turning seriously.
Amid all the rotations, people who hadn’t trained in years are now committed to running, working up to half marathons and beyond.
We have bike enthusiasts who hadn’t ridden since childhood. And we have walkers who have mapped out where to find the best cats to visit and are unwavering in their feline wanderings on foot.
Beth Lehman, a nanny from Greenville, New York, hopped on a bike for the first time in years while teaching one of her young charges during the pandemic. Now the whole family she works for rides with her, including an octogenarian grandfather.
“I pretended to have confidence in myself,” she said of the two-wheeler recovery.
Craving company, we stood on lawns, sidewalks and cul-de-sacs to check in. We brought homemade soups to locked-in seniors. We returned armfuls of fresh cut flowers from our gardens. We lingered for a socially distanced conversation.
Commitments to random acts of kindness to seniors living alone continue, with neighborhood schedules set for snow removal and pies delivered for the holidays.
Lisa and Larry Neula in Sacramento, Calif. shared the gift of aloha with their neighbors. She was a competitive Hawaiian dancer and hula instructor and he is a member of the famous Lim family singers of Kohala.
Together they have entertained their neighbors during the pandemic since entering and continue their performances there today.
“If you have a person who shows they want to be social, others get it. It becomes contagious,” Lisa said. “I don’t want to take all the credit, but it makes me a better person.”
Gardening turned into restful curation. It was also a way to get extra exercise and grow fresh food.
This meant that old bushy shrubs that were once a chore have become manicured assets that are a joy to maintain. More lawns were ripped up to plant native plant gardens and wildflower meadows, and market gardening boomed.
Gardening has new enduring lovers.
“Now I rarely watch TV,” Kelly Flor-Robinson said in Bethany Beach, Delaware.
Some women threw away the hair dye. Some their hair dryers.
They chose to embrace their inner curls and gray. Today, they no longer hesitate to return after almost three years of natural hair.
“In March 2020, right after everyone was locked in, I ignored the reminder in my calendar to do the root touch-up, and I ignored the next and the next and so on,” Susan said. Cuccinello in Ossining, New York.
“I remember when salons started to reopen and several of my friends were so relieved to be able to re-color their hair and roots. It didn’t sway me at all. And my hair is actually thicker and in better health. Plus, it’s great to break another relic of the patriarchy!”
Others have ditched makeup and underwire. They once considered both a necessity but were released into solitary confinement. They always do without it happily.
With a new embrace of the outdoors, certain sports have attracted new enthusiasts.
Pickleball attracted players, expanding its fan base and expanding the demand for courts. It has upset a tennis player or two, or four.
For others, it was golf.
In Maplewood, New Jersey, Matthew Peyton and his son Julian worked together on their rounds of golf. Julian now works as a fitter in a sporting goods store and is considering college golf programs.
“So here I am. Single dad with an active 15-year-old who won’t be in school for two years,” he said. “We don’t know what’s safe. We don’t touch doorknobs or go to the store. But the golf course is our refuge. You’re 300 yards away from anyone else all by yourself. It’s like a private oasis.”
The Zoom Pole
We still save a lot of Zoom time for work, book club, family visits, and meeting up with old friends. But there are other sustainable uses that have arisen out of pandemic necessity.
Married couples broadcast their weddings, for example, or Zoom memorials for lost loved ones.
Today’s non-professional zooms, with the return of real life, have a deeply committed following. The same goes for webinars, from art history to virtual exploration of an exotic location.
Samantha Martin, who splits her time between New York and West Palm Beach, Florida, has relied heavily on Zoom and WhatsApp to visit loved ones in Hong Kong and around the world. This turned into “Sunday stories”, a practice she continues today.
“Every Sunday night, I have dinner or breakfast, depending on the jet lag, with a friend or family member from around the world,” Martin said. “The calendar is full one to two months in advance.”
The world shut down, and that included lots of after-school football, chess, and Mandarin for the kids. For some families, the slower pace has remained and they are perhaps reduced to one extracurricular per week.
The reverse is true for the other families. Some children have chosen new activities because they were available during the pandemic and are excited to continue them.
Less in-store shopping
Curbside pickup. Shopping delivery. These pillars of pandemic life are new priorities for some former in-store enthusiasts.
“I used to like shopping, but it saves me a lot of time and expense, so I stuck to it,” said Amanda Sheronas Spencer in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
“If I go there in person, I have to stick to my list, which is hard for someone who loves food and cooking! Groceries are like shiny objects to me.”
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