By Anna Vavagiakis
I wrote this piece on 2020: the events that occurred then, and how it might affect people in the future. I encourage everyone to look forward—be strong, be brave, and stay safe.
“Okay class, are we clear on our assignments?” The teacher says. “Remember, if you can’t find someone who lived through 2020, then you can just write a two-paragraph essay.”
“Yes, we get it,” Young Girl responds, irritation clear in her voice.
“Have a great day students, and don’t forget to go outside today—”
Before her teacher can finish, Young Girl clicks the red button.
Buzz buzz. A woman picks up her phone, seeing a text—and above it, the date. She can’t believe it’s actually December. She sits at a large table across from her daughter.
“What are you learning about in school nowadays?” the mother asks, stabbing a piece of chicken.
“We just finished learning about the Obama era. Our new unit is on 2020.”
The mother laughs. Ignoring it, Young Girl continues.
“We are supposed to write an essay on 2020. I was thinking I could interview you. You went through it, didn’t you?”
“Sure did!” the mother remarks.
“Well, can I interview you after dinner?” Young Girl asks through a mouthful of chicken.
Her mother sighs. “Manners. But sounds good.”
“So, what happened?” Young Girl brings her notebook to her lap.
“2020. Wow, okay. There were so many big moments, and I don’t remember all of them. Granted, it was over a decade ago.
I was in 8th grade and I was, at first, separated from the news. I did not pay attention, I did not have social media, and that did not help either. That was until the pandemic started. Then, I couldn’t help but read the news and know what was going on. It began, I believe, with me and my classmates thinking WWIII was going to happen. We were kids, so we did not know what was really going on. We were dumb too, so that didn’t really help. We ate Tide Pods, for God’s sake.”
“What?” her daughter interrupts.
Her mother gives her a soft smile. “Never mind.” She continues.
“My whole world was flipped upside down, and I was scared. We started online school, which was supposed to be temporary.” The mother raises her eyebrows.
“We had to wear masks outside. We could not touch the people we loved. And as if that was not enough, we lost some of the greatest people that ever lived. Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, Ruth Bader Ginsberg” — the mother glanced at a “Males Only” sign on the house next door — “and so many more. We had to deal with injustice and unfairness left and right. We had to deal with losing loved ones and losing ourselves. And when we thought we hit rock bottom, we just hit it again. It was absolutely…horrific.”
The woman has her head in her hands. She is crying. Her daughter sits beside her, unaware of what to do.
“People went crazy, and I couldn’t blame them. No one could. I remember when the election happened. I had so many news tabs open on my computer and kept checking them. I was so stressed. But there were still good things that happened, too.”
The mother wipes her tears away and looks up at her daughter, smiling.
“Timothée Chalamet hosted SNL with Pete Davidson. Man, I was what they used to call a fangirl! Donald Trump got COVID-19, and, of course, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the presidency. That must have been one of the greatest and happiest days of my life. Everyone went into the streets and started to holler, blasting music and celebrating more than I have ever seen. It was amazing. Seeing that celebration gave me hope to last me a lifetime.” The mother shakes her head, sniffling.
She continues for hours. Young Girl is barely able to write everything down.
“That…was a lot,” Young Girl says softly.
“Yes, yes it was. And I am sure I still missed things,” she says, laughing at her daughter’s shocked face. “Sorry, that got a little intense.”
“No, it’s no problem. I’m definitely going to have the best essay.”
Her mother smiles at her and puts her hand up to Young Girl’s cheek. “It is way past your bedtime, honey. Why don’t you head to bed?”
“Okay, love you mom.”
“Love you too, sweetie.” The mother kisses her forehead. Young Girl leaves with her papers, full of notes. The mother, alone, stares at the clock, light tears coming down her face. She does not sob. After a few minutes, she turns off the lights and walks upstairs.
“Mom, I am going to play outside!” Young Girl, in a short-sleeved shirt and shorts, puts on her shoes and ties them while sitting on the stairs.
“Okay sweetie, be careful,” the mother shouts from the dining room.
Young Girl gets her mask, hanging next to the keys by the door and puts it on. She hops on her bike and glides ahead—right past the Madison family’s “Whites Only” sign, gliding past the cafe’s “Females Not Allowed” sign—all the way down the street, wondering what life was like before 2020.
This is my first year at Girls Write Now, so I was a little confused at the beginning—scratch that, very confused. My first Saturday workshop was about personal essays, and of course, as a freshman, I had no clue what that was, so I did not have anything really prepared. Since I was living through 2020 at the time, and since it was the biggest thing to happen to me, I thought about writing something that related to this year. The first thing I thought of was this piece.
While writing this piece, I had many difficulties, including writing too much and keeping track of everything that happened—so I did some research and watched the Netflix documentary, Death to 2020, which I highly recommend. I also could not have written this story without my mentor. Rachel helped and taught me so much. Thank you, Rachel. And I hope you all enjoy the story.
Anna Vavagiakis is a photographer, writer and high school freshman who lives in Brooklyn, NY. She has a love for films and books that give her an escape from reality. Anna finds both writing and taking pictures to be freeing. She feels that books, the right ones, can give you so much love, a home and a purpose. And photos can conjure emotions, too—an amazing thing.