Amy Fenster Brown’s ‘2021 in the rear view’ – Masks, rodents, Oreos … and Britney!


Amy Fenster Brown, Special For The Jewish Light

Remember a year ago, as 2020 came to a close, so many of us thought 2021 would usher in all the positive changes we needed and wanted? A new president. The end of COVID. The promise of sticking to a New Year’s resolution to lose those last few, or 20, pounds.

Now 2021 is coming to a close, and it’s not that much rosier, is it?  An uninvited COVID variant showed up and brought along an extra cousin or two. Political fights are still around and, let’s be honest, are never going to go away no matter who is in office.

We read upsetting and unsettling news every day. All the news stations do wrap-ups of the biggest stories of the year at the end of December.

So, I probably should do the same. I present to you “Amy’s 2021 Wrap-up of the Biggest Stuff That Happened.”


The year kicked off with what was possibly the biggest news story of the year: the debut of the gluten-free Oreo.  People who eat gluten with reckless abandon, I envy you, and I have since my celiac disease diagnosis in 1999. That was back before avoiding gluten was cool. Over the years, a gluten-free version of so many favorites have hit the store shelves. The iconic Oreo in gluten-free form was the icing on the cookie cake for me. It made me feel normal, like those left-handed kids in the 1970s who were presented special lefty scissors so they could keep up with the Joneses while cutting their construction paper projects.


Groundhog Day kicks off the month, and I am always hopeful our good friend Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow because that means spring will be here soon.  Punxsutawney Phil is one of our most famous rodents, probably a little more known than Michael Jackson’s best friend Ben, but not quite the rodent royalty of, say, Mickey Mouse. Mickey and friends have so much success with their theme parks that I think would be unattainable by Phil because guests would never know how to dress for the weather. February also brings us Fat Tuesday or, as I call it, Tuesday.


After a late February approval, COVID vaccines became available to us, rolling out in stages. And the race began to get an appointment. It should have been filmed for a reality show.


The month of injuries at chez Brown, also known as the month the Brown family met their health insurance deductible for 2021. One kid broke his leg in two places playing soccer. That’s why I don’t play soccer. A couple of days later, the other kid broke his finger playing flag football. That’s why I don’t play flag football. Mama kept her leg bones intact so she could drive to the orthopedist, and she kept her fingers safe so she could pay the orthopedist bills.


This is when the CDC told us vaccinated people wouldn’t have to wear masks in many public places. That went well. I had just gotten back to my routine of eating samples at Costco when so many of us realized we should still keep the masks on. There went my lip gloss plans.


School let out for the summer, which meant my kids’ pesky alarm clocks would be on vacation. A win for everyone!  We took a family trip to Phoenix during an insane heat wave of temperatures at 115 degrees most days. A dry heat is just as annoying as a moist heat, so annoying, in fact, that it made me use the word “moist.” Other words that give me the creeps include “encrusted,” “wound” and “salve.” To be extra cruel, fate assigned me annoying words that come together beautifully in a sentence: Put some salve on that moist, encrusted wound.  Gag.


July in St. Louis was also hot, probably because it was July in St. Louis. The weather segment on the local news always makes me laugh when the anchor says to the meteorologist, “Wow, it looks like it’s going to be really, really hot today. What’s with this heat wave?” Just once, I would love for the meteorologist to reply, “Well, you know, it is July. I mean, you do have a calendar, right?” Also, big news: My kids were both fully vaccinated! As my older son was getting his shot, I watched my DNA come to life as he said sarcastically to the pharmacist, “Wow, I can hardly feel the microchip going in.”  Davis = apple, Mommy = tree.


Back to school time! I wasn’t counting the days or anything. The milestone celebrated at the Brown house is that both kids are now high schoolers. Some might shed a tear of sadness knowing their little babies are growing up. Others might shed a tear of joy knowing they no longer have to drive to two schools each day. I bet you can guess which tear I shed.


We rang in the Jewish New Year, 5782, by celebrating the High Holidays, some in person at synagogues, others virtually from home. I love a festive time, and September 2021 did not disappoint with Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah. This year, as in years past, I celebrated my late father’s most famous quote: “Since I’m diabetic, I can’t fast for Yom Kippur, so instead I only eat foods I really hate.” — Ron Fenster z”l.


Before Halloween came and went, many stores set out Christmas decorations. This is my most favorite time of year because I am unleashed to express myself creatively in a more public way than I get to from January through September. How, you ask? With monogrammed Christmas stockings! When employees aren’t around, I take a chance at being naughty instead of nice by shuffling the stockings to spell out words in the middle of the display. Body parts, political statements and less-than-tasteful expressions I’m not allowed to print here are created to surprise and delight strangers in a move I consider a random act of kindness. I’m like a chubby Jewish elf spreading holiday cheer. Plus, I figure Santa’s not really watching to keep track of me for one of his famous lists because I don’t celebrate Christmas.


Britney was freed, you guys.  Britney was freed! Why do I care so much about this particular piece of pop culture? I don’t know. Celebrity news is my hobby, and I tend to really get into Hollywood happenings. Also, in November, we celebrated Thanksgiving and Hanukkah just days apart from each other, and I’m still full just thinking about it.


We’re only halfway through the month and the biggest highlight for me thus far was watching reboots of shows and movies. “Sex and the City” started up again. There were live versions of “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Facts of Life,” the latter featuring an actress who played Mrs. Garrett better than the original. I watched it about four times to make sure. I still can’t believe they never called me to play Natalie. The Steven Spielberg version of “West Side Story” was released. My review has two points. One, it was magical. Two, as Maria and Tony are talking about being together for the rest of their lives, how is it that not one person says to them, “Guys, you just met yesterday?”

It’s time to wrap up 2021 and look forward to 2022.  Do you think I should kick off the New Year with some predictions? Email me at the address below and let me know what you think we have to look forward to in 2022.

In January, I’ll stare into my proverbial crystal ball and let you know what to expect in the months ahead.