The Power of Community: A June Letter From the Editor

published Jun 1, 2021
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Credit: Bijou Karman

One defining part of this past year has been separation. I left the office last March, and haven’t seen my coworkers in person since. I went through an entire pregnancy without seeing my mom or college best friends. I saw my dad one time, masked on the sidewalk, six feet away. My husband and I still haven’t paid our respects to his grandmother who died last spring. And I’m one of the lucky ones — I’ve had the privilege to maintain this safe distance, and a job I can do from a computer screen.

It’s a strange feeling to grow an entire human being with no one to bear witness to it. In October, Erica Schwiegershausen wrote an article for The Cut entitled “On Zoom, No One Knows You’re Pregnant.” “In the early months of the pandemic, I heard people say that it felt like life was on hold — but my pregnancy felt like a constant reminder of the opposite,” she wrote. “My life was changing, and I was desperate for some outside acknowledgement of what was happening.” I felt the same way. While Zoom work had its benefits in pregnancy (a full-time legging wardrobe and no commute), it was also incredibly lonely.

But through it all, I also made some surprising connections, starting with my neighbors. I’ve lived in the same NYC building for more than a decade now. Yet before the pandemic, I barely knew my neighbors. I worked long hours, and never really made the effort to be honest. Covid changed all of that.

Suddenly, those neighbors were my only consistent human interaction, albeit masked and at a distance down the hall or between closing elevator doors. Two women on either side of the hallway cheered me on and asked how I was feeling as my belly swelled. I proudly showed off my anatomy scan ultrasound photos to the building staff. When I faced down Thanksgiving alone with my husband and baby-to-be, I cooked dinner for an upstairs neighbor who became a bit of an email pen pal, even though we’ve still never met face to face. And when we brought my daughter, Lily, home in February, without family here to offer in-person support, my neighbors left gifts at the door and messages of goodwill. They never even complained about the middle-of-the night screaming from those first few weeks, assuring me they couldn’t hear her (I’m certain they could).

Now that we’re cautiously entering post-vaccine life, Lily has finally been able to meet her extended family outside the screen. But the neighbors are still here, too. They ooh over Lily in her stroller in the lobby. They wave in the park and ask how I’m feeling (and I finally can see their faces outdoors!). My email pen pal checks in.

I can’t imagine this year without their support, and that’s making me even more excited to celebrate our neighbors here on the site, with Apartment Therapy’s third annual “Community Month.” We’re kicking off on the first day of June with a list of 101 ways to be a good neighbor right now, by writer Candace Ramirez. The ideas vary from giving back, to cleaning up your streets, to welcoming new neighbors and beyond.

Of course, June is also Pride Month, and we’ll be celebrating with content all month long, including a look at LGBTQIA identity through decor.

And finally, in June we’ll be debuting our Small/Cool Experience here in NYC. We challenged 10 designers to bring 10 trends to life, all in teeny tiny spaces. The results are… amazing (I just saw the space in person for the first time on Friday). You can see it all at our live Instagram event on June 11, 12, and 13 — sign up for more details here. I can’t wait to connect with our Apartment Therapy community of readers all weekend long.

I’m wishing you all a safe, healthy, and celebratory start to your summer. My sincere hope is that it brings more connection to all of us after a long, hard year.

Warmly,

Laura

Credit: Joe Lingeman / Apartment Therapy

Our letter from the editor series appears at the beginning of every month. You can follow Laura on Instagram here.