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Love in the Time of Coronavirus



Celebrations on the South Fork look more than a little different these days. (Thanks, Coronavirus.) Restaurant food is take-out. There’s no shopping in stores for gifts. Party guests are friends who wave hello from the street while you stay safe, socially distanced, indoors.

But coronavirus can never truly dim the light of love.

Kevin Smith took Emily Smith, his wife, to Oheka Castle to celebrate their first wedding anniversary a few years ago. Fast-forward to this year’s anniversary, which happened to fall in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak — and the result was a celebration that proved you don’t need a castle to feel like you’re living in a fairy tale.

Kevin knew Emily hoped for an evening out of the house, but with restaurants closed to dine-in guests, he had to get creative to make her wish come true. So he planned an intimate dinner for two in an empty barn he’d been given permission to use, complete with music, candles, and take-out from a favorite restaurant.

“The second I walked in, I just burst into tears. It was absolutely perfect, completely unexpected, and the most romantic evening I could have dreamed of,” says Emily, who teaches at a school in Bridgehampton. “When we were talking over dinner, Kevin shared that he hoped it felt like we were out at dinner, but I have to say it was even better. We had no distractions or interruptions and the whole time we were able to just focus on each other. It was absolutely beautiful.”

Lisa Winter and Ricardo Winter, who own the Set Point Tennis store in East Hampton, celebrated their twelfth anniversary in March at Vine Street Cafe on Shelter Island just a couple of days before New York State closed restaurants. Lisa recalls she had lamb chops and a glass of red wine — comfort food — and remembers the restaurant was a little bit chilly that night.

It was a nice, normal anniversary celebration.

“We didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. I figured the schools closed for a safety precaution and we never thought it would be so extreme,” she says. “We probably would have stayed there a little longer if we had known it would be our last supper out. We didn’t really do anything special, but it became special because it was our last dinner out before it all happened. It was nice. Now that I think of it, it was nicer than it appeared to be at the time.”

It may even have been their anniversary when Alice Whitmore’s husband, Dr. Wayne Whitmore, asked her what she thought they should do for dinner that night (days seem to blend together lately).

Normally the couple, who live in Amagansett and New York City, would celebrate their anniversary at a favorite restaurant, Felidia (which manages to be homey and pricey at the same time). This year, they cracked open a bottle of champagne and had dinner at home.

“We’ve been married for 36 years, but this is the first time we’ve spent so much ‘quality time’ together,” Alice, a writer, says. It's a good thing I enjoy cooking, because my husband is a notorious non-cook. If left to his own devices, he opens a can of tuna and eats it over the sink,” she says. “Nowadays, with tuna so scarce — I haven’t seen canned tuna in the IGA for weeks — he would probably starve. If something happens to me, and he remembers where the freezer is, he’ll be able to eat for weeks because I’ve been Cooking for the Apocalypse like crazy.”

For the moment, Alice and Wayne are doing just fine. “For one thing, our house is spacious enough for us to keep our social distance from each other — Wayne basically takes the outdoors, where our gutters have never been cleaner nor our bushes more well-trimmed,” Alice says. “And I take the indoors, doing the afore-mentioned cooking and knitting projects as well as reading everything I can lay my hands on. And, though I am a writer, nope, I haven’t used the time to finally write My Book. Wayne’s one big indoor activity is playing the piano. A lot. I’ve heard ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ on virtual ‘repeat’ more times than I can count. But if that’s all I have to complain about, I’m one Lucky Woman.”

Kevin and Emily also celebrated their three-year-old daughter’s birthday recently. Her party was a parade of friends and loved ones passing their home with posters, signs, and costumes.

“In the midst of these difficult, trying times, people are becoming really creative in the ways that they support and love one another,” Emily says. “As a result, our connections feel deeper and more meaningful as we focus on what really matters. It's common to feel as though we need to forgo celebrations during dark times, but there is beauty in allowing space for joy even in the midst of a crisis.”


Emily Smith and Kevin Smith (courtesy photo)



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