Carolyn Gibson and her husband, Matthew Lykens, had been looking forward to celebrating their son’s first birthday with family and friends.
Printed party invitations had been distributed, a menu was planned and work was underway to prepare the deck and yard for company.
And then, of course, COVID-19 began its spread and everything changed.
Understanding that the party would have to be canceled, but still wanting to do something to celebrate Leo’s special day, Carolyn turned to an idea she had seen on a morning news show – a drive-by party.
“The show featured a 16-year-old whose friends organized a drive-by birthday party for her,” Carolyn explained. “I thought that might be a fun thing for us to do for Leo.”
Drive-by observances, which range from birthday parties to viewings and funerals, are just one way that people are staying connected during this period of social distancing and maintaining space.
Friends and family are scheduling online gatherings, watching movies together while chatting in real time, exchanging videos and generally staying in touch. Book clubs are meeting on Zoom instead of in person, grandparents are reading to grandchildren on Skype and worshippers are tuning in to virtual services.
Reaching out to others a healthy response
According to Jill D. Snively, a licensed professional counselor with a practice in Wyomissing, reaching out to others and staying connected are healthy responses to the current situation.
“We should be checking in with others and staying in touch,” Snively advised. “None of us chose to be in this situation, which is not within our control. But, we can take steps to respond in a healthy manner that best serves ourselves and others.”
When you’re feeling afraid or uncertain, it’s important to remember that others are most likely feeling the same way, Snively said. Reaching out to help someone enables you to understand you’re not the only one who is hurting.
“It’s the act of getting beyond ourselves,” she said. “Offering help and staying in touch and connected enables you to do that, and that’s a positive response.”
Leo won’t remember, but family and friends will.
At 4 p.m. on the day of Leo’s birthday, cars started lining up in front of the family’s Cumru Township home. Friends and relatives held hand-written signs wishing him a happy birthday, and a dish of ice cream was handed out of one of the cars as a special treat.
Accompanied by his parents and with ice cream dripping off his nose, Leo proudly pushed his new wagon up the street, grinning happily at those waiting in their cars to see him.
“I think it was fun for Leo, but it also was really nice for Matt and me to get to see some of our friends and family,” Carolyn said after everyone had said hello and moved on. “We really miss spending time together.”
While in all probability Leo won’t remember his first birthday party, his parents and their friends and family certainly will.
“It wasn’t at all what we were expecting, but it was okay,” Carolyn said. “We’ll hope by next year things will be pretty much back to normal and we’ll have a party for Leo’s second birthday.”
Some suggestions for apps you can use to stay connected to family members and friends can be found in an article published by Harvard Medical School. It’s online at https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/apps-to-keep-us-connected-in-a-time-of-social-distancing-2020032519306.