The moment that changed everything for Olivia Cada was when she heard about the hospital ships coming to New York. Her parents were already encouraging her to come home and her friends were leaving the city. But, after the boat, she bought her airline ticket and flew home the next day.
Growing up in Excelsior, Cada, 29, attended Minnetonka High School. Her parents were actors, so she was involved in the arts. She kept busy with dance classes and choir practices.
Excelsior was a great place to grow up, she said. She fondly remembers attending community events such as Apple Days, Art on the Lake and the Fourth of July celebration with her older brother and parents.
After graduating from high school in 2009, Cada attended Mississippi State University where she studied fashion. In 2013, the year she graduated, she moved to New York to work for the designer Kenneth Cole.
Working in New York fashion was her dream. Since she moved, she has worked for several fashion companies. She resides in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
There are many diverse cultural activities where she lives, which helped her to learn about other cultures, she said. Living in Excelsior there were many events going on. But, in New York, they are more culturally specific.
“It’s definitely opened my eyes to a lot,” Cada said.
Cada’s father is from the Czech Republic and her mom is from the South. Growing up, she learned a lot about different cultures. It’s a whole different way of learning through dinnertime conversations versus living near and meeting people from all around the world, she said.
When the pandemic started, she thought it would blow over. Cada has become a New Yorker and planned to stay.
“I have that mentality of ‘New Yorkers are tough and we stick it out,’” Cada said.
Working in international sales, she regularly hears about what’s going on in countries all around the world. The pandemic got real for her when she started hearing that many, and eventually all of her partners, were closing down or working from home. She started receiving automatic replies from people who were furloughed, she said.
On March 12, she was told to work from home. She only took her laptop because she expected to get back into the office in a week or so.
Cada and a few friends banded together to stick out the pandemic. They pledged to be each other’s support systems if anything happened, she said. But, when she heard about the ships, she got uncomfortable. On March 28, the group of friends all flew home to their respective parts of the county.
When she got back home to Excelsior, she had to quarantine for 14 days in her childhood bedroom. Her mom, outfitted in a mask and gloves, would deliver all her meals to her. She could text her mom if she needed anything, but her mom also put a bell in her room for good measure. Cada wasn’t allowed outside her room except to use her bathroom or go on socially distanced walks.
Easter in the Cada household was a special celebration this year. It marked the day she could emerge from quarantine.
Cada worked remotely during her stay. When she wasn’t working, she was bored at times because everything was closed. It helped that closure was almost universal. When she looked up friends in New York, it wasn’t like they were going out and she was missing out, she said.
It was a blessing to be back in Excelsior, she said. She appreciated the calm serenity of the water, being able to take a bike ride and, of course, drive through Adele’s for frozen custard. It was great to see the scenery and wildlife, and birds that aren’t pigeons, she added.
Cada had never spent this much time with her parents. As a kid, she was in school most of the time. It was a good experience spending time with them and getting to know them on a deeper level as an adult, said. She was home for more than 70 days.
One of the things Cada and her mom bonded over was cooking dinner. Cada would post her mom giving a synopsis of the meal on social media. It all started when she was in quarantine and had nothing else to do, she said.
The posts continued to be their nightly routine. She’d post what her family was having for dinner along with tips and tricks of cooking for a family. Her mom was quite a hit, she said with a laugh, adding people weren’t happy when she went back to New York and there were no more cooking posts.
Being back in New York has been weird, Cada said. The city feels different than it was a few months ago. Businesses are still boarded up, also because of the protests. She lives near restaurants and bars, which have opened windows for street service. People in her area go out and buy $15 cocktails in plastic cups for happy hour.
Being around a lot more people has been both fun and nerve-wracking, she said. She constantly reminds herself that there is still a pandemic. People need to be wearing masks, socially distancing and taking it seriously. She misses having the space in Excelsior to walk around without being too close to strangers, she said.
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