Prelude: When they first arrived in the United States from Cuba, my maternal grandfather gave my grandmother a three-diamond necklace. It was passed down to my mom, and although I wore it on special occasions — my high school senior prom, weddings, and other formal celebrations — I always returned it to my mom for safe keeping.
In January 2020, the necklace disappeared.
December 26, 2020: My life’s traveling companion and I were on our way to the Seybold Building in downtown Miami to have the diamond in my commitment ring reset after it had suddenly fallen out of the band a few days earlier.
We had exchanged the custom-made rings in May of 2008. Our trip to downtown Miami’s famous jewelry emporium the week after Christmas 2020 was meant to be a simple in-and-out deal, followed by picking up a curbside lunch and finding a secluded place to remove our masks long enough to eat our meal in peace.
The Universe, who never misses an opportunity to teach us a lesson, had other plans.
“This diamond is cracked,” the jeweler said as he began cleaning it.
I found out the hard way (pardon the pun), that despite their strength, diamonds are vulnerable if they are struck with force at certain angles. (I save the symbolism in this for another post.)
Bottom line: The diamond would have to be replaced, and although Santa had already come to town, she would have to come back in two days to pick up and pay for a new stone. The old diamond would be re-cut, and depending on how much could be salvaged, I could choose between having it placed on a small pendant or a single earring to upgrade the one my traveling companion had given me on our first Valentine’s Day together. (I have an odd number of piercings. It’s as radical as I get.)
On our way to lunch, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things that had broken in 2020 and how much money we had spent to have them either fixed or replaced. I was lost in thought when I saw what looked like a huge traffic jam just off to my right. Although traffic was moving, the line of cars was going nowhere. It went on for about six blocks, turned a corner and continued as far as the eye could see.
A quick Google search revealed its purpose. While I was busy feeling sorry for my cracked diamond, hundreds of people were lining up for a box of groceries to feed their families.
My choice of having to choose between a diamond pendant or a diamond earring seemed pathetic at best.
A Look Back at an Unprecedented Year
For me, 2020 began with a lot of promise. After three years of semi-retirement, I was offered a full-time job doing what I love to do in an industry that was totally foreign to me. I happily accepted the challenge.
On March 11, 2020, things turned on a dime. For most of the world, March 11 was the day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. For my traveling companion and me, however, it was the day our dream trip was denied. Moments after we arrived at Miami International Airport, the President of Argentina — the first stop on our trip — announced that anyone entering the country from the U.S. would have to quarantine for two weeks before being allowed to continue their journey.
Instead of an international vacation, we went home to tour the rooms of our house and follow stay-at-home orders for the next who knows how long. It really wasn’t a bad deal. Other than the postponed vacation, working and living together 24/7 wasn’t all that bad. We had worked at home together for several years. This was just a continuation of same movie.
And then lightning struck … literally.
“WTF WAS THAT?”
We were working at our workstations on a quiet overcast afternoon when we abandoned our computers and raced to identify the source of a sonic boom that had shaken the house.
Lightning from a storm that was a prelude to 2020’s record-breaking hurricane season had struck one of our neighbor’s palm trees across the street. Other than a few startled palm fronds, everything seemed to be OK.
An hour later, I glanced out the window and noticed that the pool vacuum was not working, and the pool pump was eerily quiet. I’m not an expert on lightning, nor do I play one on TV, but according to our electrician, the electrical charge of the lightning bolt had made its way to the junction box where the pool pump was connected and turned it to toast.
A few phone calls, several days, and quite a few dollars later, everything was fixed.
Life went on, until …
The House’s Water Broke
It began as a trickle coming from underneath the water heater in the garage. It took two plumbers and about six weeks to identify and fix the pinhole leak in the wall that was the source of Niagara Falls’ temporary move to our garage.
To show the garage leak who was boss, the ceiling in the dining room joined in the fun and also sprung a leak.
The morning after the garage stopped bleeding water …
An Appliance War Broke Out in the Kitchen
For no good reason at all — other than it was 2020 — our perfectly good glass stove top cracked in half. A replacement one was ordered, but it would take three months to arrive. As visions of three months of barbecues danced through my head, the igniter on our never-had-a-problem-with-it-before BBQ broke.
Not to be outdone, a huge scratch appeared on the refrigerator door, an injury no doubt prompted by the appliance war. In addition, one of the refrigerator door shelf dividers cracked in half. We think this might have happened as the poor shelf cowered in fear while the war was raging.
As I loaded dishes in the dishwasher one night, I looked around the kitchen and wondered what else could possibly go wrong. The next morning I awoke to a flood on the kitchen floor. The dishwasher had read my thoughts and answered my question.
But, hey, I could deal with all that as long as I had coffee every morning. But coffeemakers can read thoughts too, and mine was no exception. One morning I poured water into its receptacle to brew coffee, and it all leaked onto the floor.
Pass my credit card, please.
Plastic Pellets, the Platform Bed, and Random Inconveniences
Since one of the joys of quarantine is getting to know the other rooms in the house, let’s move to the master bedroom where out of nowhere, the platform bed began raining tiny plastic pellets and scattering them throughout the bedroom and master bathroom.
One tiny pellet, two tiny pellets, 3,000 …
When they made their way into the dining room, it was time to call the manufacturer and find out what was going on.
Would we add a new platform or mattress to our 2020 casualty list? Thankfully, no. The pellets were coming from a ruptured anti-moisture bag that the installers had neglected to remove when they installed the platform … three years ago!
That night, we identified another victim of 2020’s antics. Our not quite 1-year-old television in the bedroom was fried. Binge watching in bed was on hold.
The Rest of the House Joins in the Party
While we were dealing with the “major” casualties, small inconveniences popped up to keep us entertained.
The high hat lights in the kitchen pantry, the hall closet, and the living room went out … on the same day.
The paper shredder that has worked like a charm since the day we got it, was taken out by a single sheet of paper. Always the optimist, I saw this as a Universal symbol that 2020’s shredding of life as we knew it was about to come to an end.
Which begs the question …
Was 2020 really different than any other year? Or did the fact that we had too much time on our hands to focus on these things make them seem bigger than they were? Stuff breaks all the time and we fix it. But in 2020, we had nothing to distract us from these “tragedies” that were really nothing more than the inconveniences of modern living.
But 2020 forced us to wake up from our unconscious life and start giving thanks for what we have.
The world suffered a plethora of tragedies in 2020 … real tragedies. But hidden beneath the sadness and pain, 2020 also brought us a gift.
Focus on what’s important … on the things that once broken can’t be fixed or replaced. Give thanks for what you have because one day those things you most take for granted could suddenly disappear.
On Jan. 1 2021, I got an early-morning call from my mom. We had chosen to spend New Year’s Eve at our respective homes, and treat NYE like any other day on the calendar. I had struggled with this, but had accepted it, knowing the Universe would send a sign that we had made the right decision.
Mom’s call sealed the deal.
“I have great news,” she said. “I was looking through one of the drawers in my nightstand …”
I knew what was coming.
“… and I found a box with your grandmother’s diamond pendant.”
Call it coincidence, call it a miracle … the Universe doesn’t care what you call Her gifts. A simple “Thank you” is Her only expectation.