A few weeks ago, Nick and I sat together on the couch — our faces lit by our laptops, working, and half paying attention to a Netflix series on the TV. Our daughter was asleep. My in-laws were watching TV in their den in the basement. We weren’t sure what day it was or when we’d last showered.
In the weeks since the pandemic began and Wisconsin’s Safer at Home Order went into effect, our days seemed to run together. Each day was an endless loop, a groundhog’s day. Bed. Kitchen table. Work in our “offices”. Kitchen table. Couch. Bed. Repeat. For us, and many families who’ve not been directly impacted by illness from COVID-19, this is the story of the pandemic.
But as the weather warmed and the sun came out, so did our neighbors. One by one, we saw people on our street and on our evening walks that we’d never seen before.
Though we’ve been in our house for more than two years, we still only knew a few people in Grandview Commons. Mostly, we knew the people we knew before we moved here.
Between working at our day jobs and raising our daughter, Nick and I also run a creative consulting business. We build websites, consult on campaigns, and take client photography. Our friends tell us we’re a little nuts but we love the chance to work together on creative projects.
Sitting on the couch one night, Nick wondered aloud. “What if we offer to take photos of our neighbors to raise money for the response effort?” An hour later (most of which was me excitedly tossing out loosely related ideas) the Isolating Together Project was born.
For the last two weekends, Nick and I walked through our neighborhood and met our neighbors — house by house. We met families with two, three, and four children. We met retired couples with grandkids just down the street and folks who’d just moved to the area. We talked about how our neighbors are doing their best not to go stir crazy and how they’ve missed their loved ones they can’t see during this time.
Their stories were all familiar and still unique. But one thing became clear — we’re in this together. That is not a unique observation. In fact, that is the tagline of nearly every marketing campaign from tech companies to big box stores. But most common sayings are common for a reason — they’re true.
Of all the projects Nick and I have worked on together, this has been the most fulfilling. We had the opportunity to meet new friends, and celebrate a first birthday and a 40th wedding anniversary. We raised money for the United Way of Dane County and got out of the house. More than anything, we found the common threads between our family and those around us. At the end of our collective isolation, maybe we’ll all find that these threads weave a strong and beautiful tapestry that comprise our communities and our common good.
We hope that you are staying safe and that you enjoy these photos as much as we do.
The Fraser Family
We met Sara, Chloe, Hattie and Julius late on Sunday morning in their driveway for photos, a quick game of (socially distant) soccer, and some bike riding. Our session was just a few days before Julius celebrated his first birthday. Sara’s family is so sweet and fun; we can’t wait for quarantine to end in the hopes that our daughter and Julius can play together.
Michael and Eileen Kelley
The best thing about this project has been meeting our neighbors. In Michael and Eileen’s case, we mean that literally. Our backyards are kitty corner to one another. Eileen said they’ve been ordering everything online, which has meant a constant process of emptying and breaking down boxes. Eileen opens and empties them. Michael breaks them down for the recycling. The Kelleys also happen to be Sara’s parents!
The Wells – and Gretel
As it turns out, Julius, Chloe, and Hattie’s other grandparents live just on the other side of the neighborhood. When we met the Wells, we also found out that it was their 40th wedding anniversary. They showed us around their beautiful garden and introduced us to Gretel, the dog.
When we met the Nagels, they’d only been in their house two days. The boys were incredibly sweet, polite, and goofy. Talking to Leslie and her family was a reminder than even while the world feels shut down, life, and big moves still happen. Welcome to Grandview Commons, Nagel Family!
Kara, Jeff, and Arlo
We share a backyard with Kara, Jeff, and Arlo. In fact, they are one of the many reasons we moved to Grandview Commons. We loved taking photos of Arlo who, as it turns out, is quite the ham for the camera.
Jen, Jon, Georgia, and Charlie
We also, sort of, share a backyard with Jen, Jon,Georgia, and Charlie. Their sweet family is always out and out, drawing incredible driveway chalk art, flying kites, or building new things in the yard. Georgia and Charlie are too sweet and we hope Evie gets to play with them as they all grow older and a few years’ age difference matters less.
Tony, Kelly, and Owen
Though we don’t share a backyard, we are also friends with the Palese Family. Tony, Kelly, and Owen (and Layla Dog) are our daughter’s favorite playmates — although play dates now look like waving at each other from across the yard. We can’t wait until our daughter and Owen can run around silly in the yard and wear each other out.
Check back later for families from Weekend Two.
You can also still sign up to donate to the United Way of Dane County in exchange for a short photo session by clicking here.