After sad Mother’s Day 2020, vaccines offer sweet reunions

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Leland Stein, left, takes a photo with his mother Sondra Green in her apartment in New York on April 26, 2018. The two are reuniting in person for Mothers Day as vaccinations have made families feel more comfortable gathering for the holiday. (Leland Stein via AP)

NEW YORK – When Leland Stein heads to his 93-year-old mother's senior living facility for Mother's Day, he'll have flowers in hand, a bottle of bubbly and a year's worth of hugs.

“I miss Leland's visits very much," said Sondra Green, a retired Vassar College drama professor who counts Meryl Streep among her former students. "I'm just very grateful for his presence.”

Many moms, grandmothers and their offspring around the U.S. will be equally thrilled. They were forced to hold off on the physical joys of Mother's Day last year amid pandemic fears and restrictions. This time around, vaccinations and abiding by post-shot waiting periods have brought more security and comfort to bring on the hugs and kisses for sweet in-person — and indoor — reunions.

Of course, not everyone will feel that joy. There are those mourning for mothers lost to COVID-19, and others who are refraining from socializing in person until they, too, can get vaccinated.

During the pandemic, the 64-year-old Stein and his elegant mom have met just once, about six months ago outside of her Brookdale Senior Living location in downtown Manhattan. He couldn't keep away, particularly since Green lost her husband just months before the pandemic took hold, but it was a long trip from his home in Arlington, Massachusetts, for a brief visit on the lawn.

Green's three other sons live in the West, too far to make a Mother's Day trip.

Stein, too, has been feeling the separation and the sting of isolation. At the start of the pandemic in mid-March 2020, the performance space he manages, the Regent Theatre in Arlington, was shut down as the world headed into emergency mode.

“It was Friday the 13th,” he recalled. “We had a sold-out show at the theater and the rug was pulled out from under us. I had just lost a relationship, so I lost my relationship, my community, my family. That was a lot to deal with and I have to say, having my mom still around was very helpful. My mom was cool, calm and collected.”