If this pandemic is good for anything, it has forced us to be creative.

A friend whose husband was having a birthday Sunday planned an itinerary for him that included getting takeout food from a nice restaurant, ordering a cake from their favorite bakery, taking a bird-watching hike and stopping in our driveway on their way home so we could wish him a happy birthday.

Peanut butter and white cream-filled whoopie pies Amy Calder made this week from a recipe that won a blue ribbon at a past Skowhegan State Fair. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

I figured we’d just chat with them from 6 feet away for a few minutes, and then say goodbye. But that seemed inadequate.

So, I scrounged around in a drawer and found a multi-colored birthday banner, devised a personalized happy birthday sign, taped them to the garage door and set out a little table next to the driveway on which I placed a birthday gift.

Then Phil and I plunked ourselves down in lawn chairs on either side of the signs and, when they drove in, sang “Happy Birthday.” We sat in the driveway and, practicing social distancing, chatted for about an hour in the chilly air as the sun ducked in and out of the clouds. We caught up on news and forgot all about the pandemic.

Such a simple gathering that in normal times might seem pretty dull was actually uplifting, considering we hadn’t done any socializing in a while. And my friends got a kick out of the signs — and our singing caused them to laugh.


Yes, the pandemic has wreaked havoc with our lives, hitting some harder than others.

But it also has forced us, in our inertia, to move. We’re weeding gardens, mowing lawns, spiffing up flower gardens. We’re spring cleaning, one room at a time, poring through closets and drawers, and purging unnecessary things.

We’ve learned to work from home, which at first seemed daunting, and are becoming adept at shutting out noises not usually associated with office life. We are becoming accustomed to having the occasional errant cat trek across our keyboards.

We’re cooking more from scratch, eating less processed foods and saving money by not eating out.

And baking more cookies. Maybe that’s a downside of this pandemic, but we have to have some kind of consolation prize, right?

A few years ago, I wrote a story about a woman who won first place in a whoopie pie-baking contest at the Skowhegan State Fair. I copied the recipe, filed it in my cookbook and swore I would bake them within the week. Did I do that? No.


It took a pandemic to set a fire under me. I made those whoopie pies this week and, OMG, were they good.

People are coming up with all sorts of ways to celebrate birthdays and other milestones without congregating. They’re organizing birthday parades, drive-in church services, drive-in movies. Waterville Senior High School is planning a drive-in graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 in the Central Maine Motors Auto Group parking lot, thanks to the kindness of its owners, Chris and Linanne Gaunce, and out-of-the-box thinking by the Gaunces and school officials.

These are the things we humans are good at — finding ways to get around a difficult situation, adjusting, adapting and dreaming up solutions.

We don’t yet have a vaccine for the coronavirus, but we’re not letting it kill our spirit.

We’re living our lives, albeit in alternate ways, in preparation for our comeback.

And when that day arrives, we’ll be armed not only with immunity, but also a new skill set for tackling the next crisis.

We may not be able to control Mother Nature, but we sure can learn to live creatively with whatever she throws our way.


Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 32 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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