Playgroup in 2020/2021

It’s been profoundly rewarding to run the playgroup in this year of Covid-19. If not for the confidence and determination of parents who wanted to go forward this year, and the fact that the group is so small, I’m not at all sure it could have happened. The rewards of going ahead have been immeasurable.

Much of my worry was around separation. In any other year, parents and/or caregivers are invited into the playgroup space to help the kids who are having trouble acclimating. This year it was clear months ago, as I started imaging how to structure things, that no one could enter the space other than me, my assistant and the kids. Shoes and coats are now left outside the playgroup space. Before entering temperatures are taken and hand sanitizer used by all those allowed inside.

The thing that keeps blowing my mind is that separation was the easiest it has ever been in the more than three decades I’ve been running playgroups. There were barely any tears or a desire to leave at any point from the very start. Amazing! Was it because the kids were so eager to be around each other and in an inviting space designed just for them? Was it because the parents and caregivers had to prepare themselves to let go at the door, and on the first day? As we know, kids are extremely sensitive to what the important adults around them are feeling. Both are probably true.

Whatever the reason, I am deeply grateful for this year. Everyone is so happy and dedicated to making it work for the whole year. Winter break is almost over and I’m so excited to get back together on Tuesday in the New Year.

Letter to Parents

So here we are in the middle of a pandemic.  Few of us could have ever imagined what life would look like in August of 2020.  In normal times, as parents and teachers of young children, we would be getting excited about the new school year and savoring the last days of summer before everything gets crazy busy again.  

The tone of this time is very reminiscent for me of the days and months following September 11th of 2001.  I speak for many – especially those of us who lived just blocks from the World Trade Center site – when I say it was other-worldly, thoroughly disturbing our sense of reality and normalcy.  How could we get through it?  How will our world look in the future?  Will life ever feel normal again?  

I believe life will feel normal again, just altered.  Changes may be significant, but we will make it normal.  We humans are extremely adaptable.  Life will not be the same but that doesn’t have to mean awful.  Our kids will, as always, take their cues from us.

On September 12, 2001 I closed the playgroup for a a short time – a total of three days as I recall.  We had only just begun the school year on the 10th.  The playgroup families did various things.  Some got out of the city while others hunkered down in place.  My daughter Sara and I travelled to my sister Frances and her family in Massachusetts.  I went to the ocean the day after I got there.  There was no one there but me and I cried and screamed into the air that thousands of people had just died and that I was so sad and so scared.  I scared the daylights out of the seagulls who were walking on the beach I remember, which made me laugh a little between crying and screaming.  

When we got back to New York I resumed the playgroup and vowed to myself to make it an oasis for the kids and the families.  And it was.  One family moved out of New York right away, but everyone else stayed.  By the end of the school year we all felt lucky to have been part of something bright and hopeful.   

I have that same feeling right now, although we’re going through a far more complicated time.  We have to fight to get our lives back and fight injustice with regard to people of color, especially black people in this country.  I’ve learned to be not just a non-racist, but an actively anti-racist person.  This forcibly quiet and unhurried moment is a gift.

As I ready my playgroup space and my mind for this coming year, I have that same determination to make the playgroup a sanctuary.  And I know it will be.


I loved my time at Judy’s Playgroup. I’m 32 and my best friends are still from there! It’s a community, creative loving and engaged. I feel so lucky.

  • Lena Dunham, Class of 1989

Quill Pig Farm

My daughter, Sara, and her husband, Doni, have created a wonderful life on a farm in Plainfield, Vermont.  They raise beautiful and healthy pigs, primarily, and have the meat humanely processed.  They sell their delicious products in Vermont, also delivering to Manhattan and Brooklyn once a month.    

This may seem shamelessly self- and family-promoting (I guess it really is), but suffice to say I am immensely proud of them and their pure intention to be honest and trustworthy business people.  

When Sara was little, she wanted to someday live in the country.  She has certainly fulfilled that dream, and then some! 

The name “quill pig” is a folkloric name for porcupine, no doubt because it looks to be very much part of the swine family, but with quills.  Doni found a dead one on the property a few years back, looked into the origin of the name, and together with Sara, decided that was the absolute perfect name for their farm.  

Last summer I stopped the car on a back road, and my granddaughter, Audrey, and I watched in awe this prehistoric-looking creature lumber down the road, stopping from time to time to raise its quills upward.  As quickly as it could, it scrambled into the woods.  I learned later that porcupines don’t propel their quills when threatened, but simply release them into those unlucky enough to be in contact with them.  Indigenous people would throw a blanket over them, and the quills would release into the blanket.  They would then be used for decoration.  Brilliant!

If you want to learn more about the farm, please go to