So many things can happen in the span of a year. When I think about what we were doing last year, I can’t help but long for some of those days compared to the last few months of being isolated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last May, we were looking forward to my nephew Tyler’s graduation from Watson Chapel High School and preparing for the college of his choice in Northwest Arkansas. His mom got us all matching T-shirts and we planned to sit together during the graduation at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

Getting together was no problem once we got to our seats. Staying together was a bit of a challenge afterward because of so many people being there. Not only did Watson Chapel have its commencement at the convention center, but so did Dollarway High School.

I remember Tyler looked dashing in his cap and gown. His outfit would have been unique if he had kept on the shoes he wanted to wear. They weren’t exactly kosher with the administration and he (as well as other students) had to change before the ceremony began.

Later, while everyone was taking photos and deciding whether to go out to eat, I decided it was time to go home since I had worked earlier and was tired. Unfortunately, I was stuck. There were so many cars on the lot where I parked that I was blocked in on all sides. I had to wait at least 30 minutes before I could get out.

The summer also brought anticipation of meeting a great-great-niece who would be born in July. Her mom, Ashlie, also designed special T-shirts for us to wear to her baby shower.

The shower was decorated in pink and other colors and the centerpieces were baby unicorns. The gift table was overflowing with presents. We played games and enjoyed the refreshments, which were more than finger food. If memory serves me correctly, we had barbecue cooked by my nephew, Chris, and all the fixings. The cake was good too.

Although the shower was for Ashlie, we all had a good time. It was one of the first showers I attended where men were there too. Alaya was born healthy with a head full of thick dark hair. This year, I missed her first birthday party, but I’m told her parents went all out to throw her a bash.

Late last summer, I was also planning to visit my sister and her husband out west. We had thought about getting together on the week they celebrated their second wedding anniversary and traveling to a nearby state to see her kids and grand kids. Unfortunately, a last minute issue shoved our plans.

I hadn’t seen her in two years since she got married again after being alone more than 35 years. Before then, we hadn’t seen each other in about 20 years, but we talked quite often by phone. Until the wedding, the last time I saw her kids they were still in high school. Now, the son has three boys and a girl and the daughter has three girls. All of these young people were nearly strangers to me, but there was still that familiar connection.

My sister’s daughter, Angel, had some health issues and was nearly blind. When I greeted her at the wedding, it was difficult for her to make out my face, but once she heard my voice she screamed in excitement. That was a good day.

This year, the pandemic also put a damper on other events I wanted to attend here. My friend, Gigi, and I had planned to go to the salad luncheon and fashion show at St. John AME Church at Pine Bluff in the spring.

I remember the first year I went. It was held on the same weekend as the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan. I spent the morning watching much of the wedding coverage on TV. Not only was the couple stunning, but the guests were too, especially the ladies in their hats.

When Gigi and I arrived at the church for the luncheon, many of the women there also made fashion statements with their hats. However, the salads took the show. I don’t know who made them all, but there were salads galore of all kinds.

I was also looking forward to other programs this year such as the Biz Expo of the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Roaring 20’s Gala of Southeast Arkansas College, the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Little Rock and various church programs, especially women’s day services and conferences.

One of the most significant gatherings I miss is getting together with the ladies of the birthday club who welcomed me with open arms after my husband died in 2014.

I was trying to navigate life as a widow after having been married for most of my adult life. Although I had other friends, my sister-in-law and her friends allowed me to join their group and I’ve been blessed by learning so much from them.

Whether it was advice about work and finances, the best places to shop or travel, enjoying grown folks’ music or simply dining together and enjoying each other’s company, it was all worthwhile. Maybe we’ll get a chance to do it again soon.

—- Sandra Hope is the editorial assistant and former city editor of The Commercial.