I was introduced to Tricia and Miriam Baron at a dinner with friends in Brooklyn years ago, after which, we began running into each other at NY City Center shows. Our seats up top were close to each other so after many accidental run-ins, we began making plans to see each other on purpose. Our connection was forged over bowls of queso and Broadway shows and I’ve counted myself lucky to be able to call them friends.
To know them is to know Broadway has been a central component to their relationship from the start. Their first date was to see Little Women, they were married in the balcony of the Richard Rogers Theater while If/Then was loading in—“We got married on Broadway!” Miriam says—and both work in the theater community. Tricia, who worked as an audiobook buyer for Barnes & Noble until the pandemic hit, works as a freelance theater press photographer and Miriam, who is the operations associate at a synagogue on the Upper West Side, works as a substitute usher for shows that include The Book of Mormon, Moulin Rouge, and Hadestown. When Broadway closed, both were among the thousands whose jobs were put on indefinite pause with no restart date in sight.
While 2020 will be known as the year a pandemic brought the world to a halt, it will also be known as the year Tricia and Miriam became mothers, welcoming daughter Josephine Marie into the world on May 13. What does becoming a mother look like in the middle of the pandemic? For the Barons, that answer turned out to be more complicated than you can imagine.
Ryan: It feels like a lifetime ago but let’s go back to the last thing you were able to do before the world shut down.
Miriam: I felt very fortunate to see Hangmen the last night Broadway was open. I was six months pregnant and was trying to get in as much theater as I could before I couldn’t sit through an entire show for a while. That was March 11th.
Ryan: That was also when the spring season of theatre was really ramping up so Tricia, you must’ve been working a bunch.
Tricia: Yes. Awards season was just starting and all of the shows were opening. That last week, I photographed The Woman in Black on Monday night and I was supposed to cover the Six opening night on Thursday but it got canceled and that was it.
Ryan: Once you were home, how long did it take you to acclimate to not going and doing anything?
Miriam: Let’s rephrase: How long is it taking? We’re still not there. We’ve gone through different waves of having to deal with things at home.
Tricia: Right. Our apartment was too small for us to begin with and now we’ve added Jo and all of her stuff.
Ryan: Well let’s talk about Jo. You became mothers while the world was stuck at home. What were you imagining this time of your life would look like versus what it actually looked like?
Miriam: Of course, I imagined my mom being at least at the hospital, if not in the delivery room with me. I also imagined my dad being here to help out for the first few weeks. Tricia’s mom was anxious to come and help as well so we expected to be able to have more hands-on help from family and friends.
Also, because of the pandemic, we didn’t know until a week before I gave birth whether or not Tricia could even come with me to the hospital so I was mentally preparing to do it alone, which was terrifying. Luckily, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order allowing one person to be at the birth so she got to be there. My parents still haven’t come up, Tricia’s either. We’ve been doing this alone without the physical support of family here. Of course technology has made it easier than it could’ve been because of Facetime and the ability to text photos to our families, but it’s not the same as having our moms here with us.
Tricia: Add me being ill the entire time Josephine has been alive and it’s been rough.
Ryan: Can we talk about that? You had to go to the hospital, not because of COVID, but what does that look like when you need healthcare attention during a pandemic in New York City?
Tricia: At the beginning of April, I was furloughed from my job. Two days later, I ended up in the ER with appendicitis. Because it was during the height of COVID and all the hospitals in New York were basically COVID ICUs, they couldn’t do surgery for the appendicitis.
I was sent home with antibiotics, something I was told works for 70% of people but didn’t for me. It was the most painful experience of my life. Literally, I thought I was gonna die a few times and when we called 911, the paramedics told us not to go to the hospital because of how scary the hospitals were. After four weeks, I was still in a lot of pain so I went back to the doctor, had another CT scan, was told I still had appendicitis, and was finally able to have the surgery.
A week later, I was back in the ER with abscesses throughout my abdomen which is common with both appendicitis and abdominal surgery but I was then hospitalized for four days, adding that stress to Miriam and essentially making her a single mom with a newborn for a bit. It was awful.
Ryan: It was one thing after another. And of course, it all happened right as you had this new baby. How did she change things for you? Has she taught you anything about yourself during all of this?
Miriam: That I do know how to cry. [laughs]
Tricia: I think the three weeks where I was really sick, Miriam probably cried more than she had in her whole life. She was never a crier but once the baby was born, every day. Hormones, they change things.
Miriam: Ha. Yes, she broke me.
Tricia: I’ve also discovered I need to work to bring balance to my life. I’ve had a few people call and ask for a photo session during this time and the moment I start taking pictures, I feel alive again.
Ryan: Most people being home from work for the past six months has given New York an entirely new feeling, in my opinion. As people who have lived in the city for so long, what’s been your experience this year?
Tricia: We used to love Inwood. There are parks everywhere and people are really nice. Sure, summers would get a little loud with fireworks and drag racing and lots of people and music outside but it’s been tolerable. Now, the lawlessness up here is ridiculous. Drug dealers out in the daylight, drag racing and dirt bikes are stopping traffic so they can race or do tricks, and people who’ve grown up and lived here for decades are moving out because they can’t stand it. Our neighbors will file noise complaints with the NYPD and the complaints will get closed out within minutes, stating the cops came and said there was no violation. But no one ever comes. 80% of the people here don’t wear masks either.
Ryan: It’s the same in my neighborhood in Harlem. Most people aren’t in masks and of course we were kept awake deep into the night for all of June and July because of the endless fireworks. The drag racing was never an issue before the pandemic but it certainly is now.
Miriam: On Monday, we needed to take a walk and get out of the house for a bit but within five minutes, we were back inside because of how stressful it was to be outside. There were just so many people, everywhere, no one was social distancing whatsoever. It’s made us feel trapped in our apartment.
Ryan: I understand that entirely. There’s a lot that’s wrong in the city and in the world at the moment. A lot. But let’s focus on what’s good. What good have you seen in the world in 2020?
Tricia: Even though social media is a shitshow right now, with Jo being born, I have randomly reconnected with friends I haven’t seen in decades; friends from high school and college who’ve seen what we’ve been through and have been there for us, truly been there for us. The amount of humanity in the world is still there. It’s there. That’s been the most amazing part to me. There’s still so much good in the world and people are proving there’s still love out there.