My name is Elizabeth Spring, and I’m 62 years old. In the winter of 2020, a new virus called COVID-19 came to America and disrupted absolutely everything.
At first, in February, it was just the news out of China, some new virus was starting up over there and I didn’t pay any attention. Even after it started to become a regular feature of the news, I was going on the assumption that this was going to be the same as the SARS or swine flu or other disease warnings in the past, none of which ever affected me or anyone I knew. At the time I had been living in Los Angeles for years with my dear longtime friend, Erika, who had a house in west LA. Erika is 57 and retired on disability. I was working as a legal secretary in Brentwood, and was looking at three more years of work before I could retire. I couldn’t wait.
The first time the approaching virus reality intruded into my awareness was in early March. I was scheduled to fly to Tucson to visit my father and stepmom, Connie. Dad is 85. Connie called me and said “I’m wondering if maybe with everything going on we should postpone the visit,” and I said I understood and would postpone if they thought it was the best idea, but she called me back later in the day and said “We decided it’s probably fine and we want to see you,” so I went.
The airport was weird. I had never seen LAX so empty, and the plane was only half full. Still, it wasn’t until I was in Tucson and the news started to talk about how bad the virus numbers were in Italy that the first tendrils of fear crept into my stomach. By the time I went home, only three days later, about half the people in the airport were wearing masks. I heard college students at the Tucson airport, talking about how all their classes were moving online and their campuses being shut down, and I thought “Holy crap.”
I got home on Thursday, March 12. The next day, Friday the 13th, I went to work, for what would turn out to be the last time. That night I went to Friday Night Dinner, which is a weekly gathering at the home of Lisa and Christian. Lisa is my roommate Erika’s sister, and also my close friend of 45 years, so I’m basically family. Their house was only a mile from ours. That night it was a small group, and right before we served ourselves from the counter, our friend Rob said “I licked all the plates. I hope nobody minds,” and we all thought that was hilarious. But over dinner I heard about all the toilet paper going missing and people doing panic buying, and I thought “Oh man. And here I need to go to the grocery store, too.”
I went to our supermarket the next day, and it was a madhouse. People flooding in, no carts available, everyone piling up giant orders on the conveyor belts, people being irritable and arguing with each other in the aisles, just nuts. The virus didn’t infect me there, but the panic did. I bought far more than I had intended to and hurried home to shut myself in.
That weekend my boss called me and said she was going to work from home for a few days to see what was going to happen, so I could stay home too. And that turned out to be the week Governor Newsom issued the stay-at-home order for California.
Thank God, my boss encouraged me to apply for unemployment benefits right away, which I did on March 24th. I was very lucky to still be on the leading edge of the crisis, because I was able to do the whole thing online and was successful with no delay.
Erika and I stayed home. We were good and scared now, and not going anywhere. We did Friday Night Dinner on Zoom for 8 weeks, before we very cautiously brought it back in person for a bare minimum of just us four.
Now, Lisa and Christian had been looking to relocate from LA to North County San Diego for some time. They have come down often over the past year or so to look at houses. The plan was that they would keep their Los Angeles jobs and telecommute to them. They wanted a particular type of property here in North County that is not easy to come by, so it was taking awhile.
Then May came, and Christian came over to visit one evening. Christian told us on that visit that he was very worried about what the pandemic was going to do to the economy and, specifically, to house prices. He told us that he had decided to talk to Lisa about selling their LA house immediately, while it was still appraising higher than it ever had, and moving into a rental in North County for a year or so to see what would happen to the housing market as a result of the pandemic while they continue to look locally for their permanent home. Erika and I thought that was a brilliant idea. We too hoped to move to North County to be near them after my planned 2023 retirement.
A few days later, on Sunday, May 10, I said to Erika “If Christian is right, the value of this house may be in serious danger too,” and we began a very important discussion. By the time we finished it, about two hours later, we had decided that we would put her house on the market immediately and do the same thing Lisa and Christian were doing. I would change jobs, even at this late stage of the game, and we’d protect one of the primary retirement assets that Erika has, which is the equity in her house. Plus we’d still be close to Lisa and Christian. Lisa and Christian came over that day and we told them our plans. Lisa was so relieved we were going to be moving with them that she got teary. We were all happy to have a way forward that seemed to both protect us financially and keep us together.
Erika and I began to take trips of our own to North County, and we very rapidly decided we loved Oceanside. From the very first time we stayed here, everything about the place felt like it fit us. It was relaxed and cheerful, despite the crisis. On June 8 th we were here rental scouting and we ran into the Black Lives Matter protest on S. Coast Hwy. Later that afternoon we were having lunch at the Wrench and Rodent when the protesters streamed past the restaurant. I waved and gave them the thumbs up and they waved back.
Erika accepted an offer on the house in LA in under a week. She had done a lot to keep it nice and it got snapped right up, coronavirus or no. Lisa and Christian’s house is one realty tier above ours, but it was also beautiful and well maintained, so they got an offer they accepted within 10 days. Erika and I found the absolutely perfect rental for us in Oceanside and plunged into the move. Lisa and Christian’s escrow lasted a little longer, but in the interim they also found the perfect Oceanside rental. And where was it? 2.1 miles from ours! Clearly higher powers than we possess were guiding our choices.
Erika and I moved to Oceanside on June 16, 2020. On Friday, July 10th Erika and I drove back up to LA to spend the last ever Los Angeles Friday Night Dinner with Lisa and Christian, just the four of us. It was bittersweet. Lisa and Christian moved to their Oceanside rental July 17, 2020.
I wish I had been able to move to Oceanside when everything was open and up and running, but even with the restrictions and the fear of illness, people in this town have been nothing short of amazing in their warmth and welcome. The natural beauty of the place bowls me over every day. We are all four deeply grateful that we have been in a position to make such a large change so rapidly, and even more grateful that so far all of us and our friends and families have remained well.
Thank you, Oceanside, for taking us in to such a lovely and well situated community. We hope to be a very positive contribution to this place, these people, and our time together.
Submitted by Elizabeth Spring, San Diego County – Oceanside.