Reimagining Celebrations in Quarantine

by Emma Bartholomay '20

Highschoolers across the U.S. have missed out on important traditions and milestones due to quarantine, and seniors at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes are no exception. 

Prom is the beginning of the celebrations that mark the end of senior year. But this year it was taken away. However, COVID didn’t stop seniors Libby Sterba and Alice Hurley, whose families threw them ‘pandemic proms’.

When asked what she was feeling when she heard prom was cancelled Alice responded, “I was definitely disappointed...Senior prom is a cherished nationwide tradition among all high school students, and especially at SSSAS it's something that most people look forward to - making the most of our last high school dance.” 

When asked the same question Libby responded, “Oh there were tears. Lots and lots of tears.” Sadly, it got worse from here. Libby got a call the same day saying that her dress needed to be picked up from the store. Libby explained how “ It was just kind of like rubbing it in my face. Like here’s this gorgeous dress that you can’t wear.”

Libby’s pandemic prom was planned by her father’s fiance. She got ready at her mother’s house and then drove to her father’s house. She was welcomed with Roaring 20’s decorations in black and gold, a champagne tower, and a date, her brother Andy. Her family ordered her favorite takeout food and celebrated with her. 

“It was nice. I got all dressed up and everything and then I got to actually go somewhere. Like I actually got to go into my car and go to my dad’s house to do it. So it didn’t feel as if I was getting dressed up and I’m just gonna sit on the couch. So that was nice. We had sushi for dinner. The food was so much better than any food I would have had at regular prom so that was a plus. It was very sweet of them to try and like make up for it.”

Alice’s prom was her mother’s idea as an attempt to cheer Alice up after being told she would not have a senior prom in the traditional sense.

“My whole family got dressed up. My dad put on his tuxedo, my brother was in a suit, and my mom wore a fancy jumpsuit. We ate dinner together in our dining room, trying to stay away from COVID related topics. Afterwards my mom started playing some of her favorite disco songs from the 70s, and I played some more up-to-date music, and we danced together in our living room for a little bit.” 

  “Although I wish the circumstances were different and that a true prom could've been held, it was such a sweet gesture for my family to do.” 

Birthdays are another special event disrupted by the Pandemic. Seniors Molly Dresser and Noelia Vargas got creative when it came to celebrating. Noelia’s younger sister Gabby turned 15 during quarantine. Noelia explained, “it was her 15th birthday, which is her quinceañera which is a really big deal in Latin Culture. It’s a really big birthday. Basically it’s a coming of age kind of thing.” Noelia really wanted to make Gabby’s fifteenth a special birthday by planning surprises and upholding traditions.

“She knew she was gonna have like a special night because what we did was decorate the whole family room in balloons and decorations and stuff like that. She was aware of all that happening. Normally you would waltz with every male figure in your family. Your dad, if you have brothers and your uncles and grandpas. So like when I was 15 on my quinceañera I danced with each one, and they kind of handed me off to one another. So instead we planned a waltz with my Dad and my sister, and then she danced with my brother.”

“The second surprise was a video that I put together from all of my family members wishing Gabby a happy birthday and kind of doing their own little thing in the video. So a big part of celebrating your quince is that all of your family is there to celebrate you. And I had like 200 people. And so I wanted everybody to really let Gabby’s day shine. So I put together a video of all of our family members saying Happy Birthday and doing a cute little thing for Gabby. And that was a really nice surprise since we couldn’t be with them. It was kind of like being with them from far away. You know together but still apart. So anyways that was the second surprise. Putting together that video and the parade I think really helped to make sure everybody knew it was a really special day for Gabby and also make Gabby feel like she's being celebrated.”

Senior Molly Dresser celebrated her 18th birthday in quarantine and was faced with many mixed emotions surrounding her birthday.

“I was really conflicted, like I didn’t know whether to be excited because I was turning 18, which is really exciting, or bummed out because I was in my house and it wasn’t the birthday that I had hoped for in the past. Kind of mixed feelings leading up.” Molly was still able to celebrate with her friends and family in a socially distanced way.

“Around midnight my dance friends Facetimed. We have this tradition that we Facetime for everyone when it turns midnight for their birthday. It was really fun. So we facetimed for a little bit and then in the morning my mom made me waffles, which is so nice. She brought them up to my room.” Molly’s day continued with a visit to her grandmothers’ house, cupcakes, presents, and a new pandemic birthday tradition: a parade of neighbors and friends down her street. 

Although an unideal situation Molly made the best of her special day and said, “I think in a weird way it was special because it was so different from any other birthday I’ve ever had. I will definitely remember it. It was special in a good way and special in a bad way. It's a story I can definitely tell my grandkids.”

Speaking of unideal situations, graduation has been postponed and alternative plans to celebrate had to be brainstormed. As of now there is a drive-by celebration on June 6 where seniors can pick up their diplomas and yearbooks. There is also a tentative plan to have an in-person graduation at the Seminary set for July 25 with an alternative date over Thanksgiving break. Though none of these plans are first choices for marking these important senior turning points, a committee of faculty and students has been working hard to make these milestones special in a new and memorable way. 

Alice Hurley said, “As a senior I feel so loved and supported by all the people who have made an effort to honor our final weeks because everyone recognizes how special a time this is. And I definitely will never forget it!”