Laura Hatfield remembers that day in March 2020 when her family gathered around the television and listened to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham impose the first COVID-19 restrictions across the state that changed their lives in ways they could have scarcely imagined then.
It was, Hatfield said, a solemn, stunning moment, especially when the governor announced the school closures.
For a family with five children — four of them, ages 4 to 16, living at home — this was a big deal.
For their parents with full-time jobs while pursuing master’s degrees at the University of New Mexico, this was overwhelming.
Throw in a few remodeling projects, and this was crazy.
So why not add one more task by chronicling life as it unfolded at the Hatfield Haus during what Laura called the “coronapocalypse.”
“I thought it should be something we could look back at to see what we did, how we were, what we knew,” said Laura, a senior communications layout designer at Sandia National Laboratories.
Her journal, posted on Facebook for friends and family, became an endearing, insightful and often hilarious look at life on lockdown for a family cocooned together trying to make the best of things without driving each other nuts.
Now that the end of the pandemic might be within reach, the Hatfields can review the 428 days, from the beginning of lockdown to the UNM graduation ceremonies held Saturday, and laugh at all they’ve been through.
Then again, if you peruse their journal it’s clear they’ve been laughing all along.
There’s Day 42 when for one perfect minute the house was clean, work was caught up, every child was content and Mom “could finally take a shower in peace,” Laura wrote.
There’s Day 164, when Ava, 4, named and designated the mascot for the Mama Llama School, her own remote learning program with teacher Mom via Zoom to rival her older siblings’ online schooling classes. “Ava loved it, but it made me love our teacher friends even more,” Laura wrote. “You all are heroes.”
Day 261 featured a griddle full of pancakes shaped like the continents of the world. “These days, I travel via continental breakfast,” she wrote.
Day 263 featured Daddy’s School of Rock with Joshua Hatfield subbing for 6-year-old Charlotte’s virtual music teacher. Joshua, who before he worked in information systems technology had toured with the band Blame It on Rio, led Charlotte and tambourine-wielding sister Ava in a unique version of “Dreams” by The Cranberries.
“Guess all the time he spent on tour led up to this moment,” Laura wrote.
On Day 337, Ava introduced to the culinary world her latest creation, the Cupcake Sandwich.
There were so many things to celebrate. Ava turned 4, Charlotte turned 6, Ethan turned 12 and Kate turned 16.
For Laura’s 38th birthday on Day 256, she finally received the pony of her girlhood dreams, although the pony was actually a virtual image created with an augmented reality app.
They celebrated Ethan’s third-place victory in his middle school’s spelling bee on Day 277 and the completion of the months-long master bathroom renovation on Day 291.
On Day 364, Laura and Joshua celebrated the eve of the first year since the lockdown began with a date night at home.
“It is especially noticeable on the eve of a year of quarantine, as our schools announce reopenings, friends and family continue to get vaccinated and the hope for a more ‘normal’ tomorrow starts to creep back into my daydreams,” she wrote to accompany a photo of a surface strewn with playing cards, children’s schoolwork, the appropriately chosen game Escape Room, two glasses and a bottle of Glenfiddich 14-year-old single malt scotch whiskey. “Until then, this photo encompasses what this last year has been like for me — love, tension and trying to navigate the inexplicable madness.”
On Day 428, which was Saturday, they celebrated the completion of two years of study when Laura and Joshua received their MBAs.
Because family members were not allowed to attend the ceremony at University Stadium, the Hatfield children sat through the tedious hours-long livestreamed ceremony to record their jubilant reaction when their parents’ names were called.
“This clip is the best graduation gift we could have ever asked for,” Laura wrote.
Through it all, there were virtual yoga classes, manicures, tea parties, Uber Eats, “The Crown,” puzzles and baking, holidays and memories.
What the coronapocalypse chronicles captured most were the many silver linings they found in the darkness of COVID-19, how lucky they were, how loved they are.
“These posts have served not just as a little quarantine diary but also as a reminder that we have been here the whole time,” she wrote on Day 296. “From my place of privilege, it would be easy to focus on things that have been lost the last 300 days, like vacations, date nights or haircuts. But in truth, we have been so incredibly fortunate.
“Through a global pandemic, massive protests, the loss of loved ones, social injustice, natural disasters, ongoing political unrest and the unwavering dedication of healthcare and frontline workers, we are still here. Together. Telecommuting full-time, safely and securely.
“Having the option of using a store pickup as an excuse to put on mascara and ‘going out’ shoes,” she continued. “Remodeling and redecorating until our knees are bruised and the house shines. Homeschooling from first grade to MBAs and the technological access to do so. The last 300 days have been BRUTAL, you guys, but we are still beyond blessed. I thank God for my family. For my friends. For each and every one of you. And now, as the new year begins and we enter the next phase, I hope you all are doing OK out there, too. It will get better, and we will get through this. I know it.”
And so we are. And so we will.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column.