Flashback: It was late 2019 and Michelle Obama had just finished secret filming on the as-yet-unannounced Netflix series Waffle + Mochi.
But a few weeks later, COVID-19 came to America, and Obama, like the rest of the world, was on a completely different adventure. She shares her fast-paced journey through the chaos of 2020 - Americans are quarantined at home, schools closed, children are distance learning, racial injustice and street demonstrations, the venomous heat of the presidential campaign - in an extensive interview via Zoom.
“These were difficult times. Many people fought: they lost their jobs, people went hungry,”she says. “We have learned to count our blessings, the importance of health and family.”
Former President Barack Obama, Ms Obama and their daughters Malia, 22, and Sasha, 19, on self-isolation - dividing time between family homes in Washington, D.C. and Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts - shared Wi-Fi. Malia, who is now a Harvard graduate, and Sasha, a sophomore from the University of Michigan, were sent home to attend online classes when the pandemic closed college campuses.
“I assumed our girls had fallen out of the nest,” explains Ms. Obama. “In my own way, I was happy that they built their life and allowed me emotional space. Well, they are back!"
It was better than she or her husband expected. “This time, we were able to bring back a few missed moments with our girls,” says Ms. Obama. "These captured moments meant the whole world to us, and I think they made our relationship with our children even stronger."
“There is something about witnessing how your children grow up and develop other relationships with them,” she says. “They didn't return to the house with the same set of rules because I didn't want them to lose their independence. They returned as young women, and our conversations are more peer-oriented than parent-daughter oriented.”
Hearing at the door as her daughters broadcast their online classes, Ms. Obama was also able to see a side in her children that she would never have known about otherwise.
“When everyone is homeschooled, I’m interested in listening to some of their lessons to see how they interact with their professors. When your kids graduate from college, you can't see this part of their lives,”she says.