We joke, or we try to joke, that if it weren’t for our doctor appointments, we would have nosocial life at all. That, and babysitting. The pandemic descended just about the time my friends were deciding about Medicare coverage, and the lunches were long and boring. I was spared the angst because the institution I worked for offered an excellent supplemental plan so I sat and picked at my salad, rolled my eyes a lot and sighed heavily.
No one noticed, or else I was ignored, but I had no idea how important all that medical support was going to be to me, and in the very near future. Because I had to get out of the house.
Covid brought with it a slew of grand-babies, new nieces and nephews, and that was the other thing we talked about. A lot. Once I, too, had some new little ones to coo over and brag about I was happy. But frustrated, too, because I couldn’t get my hands on them, either through distance or cautious new mothers.
Could we dare to hope now we are back to normal? Could we dare to hope that spring going into summer going into fall will bring vacations and air travel without masks, and festivals on steamy humid days, all barbecue and funnel cakes and people galore?
I think, maybe.
The sign for me was spending the weekend with friends out of town. A normal weekend out of town. With lunch out, dinner out, shopping in a quaint but crowded antique emporium, a late evening performance with the large crowd growing more cozy as the night wore on, and I was up for all of it.
Of course I was. I am compliant but I am not always a true adopter. But the friends I was with are believers of the first order. Hand washing, isolating, mask and double-mask wearers, vaxxed and vaxxed and vaxxed some more. Friends who made big plans for things important to them, only to cancel them when numbers were high. Friends who did everything right.
Friends who were now on a crowded dance floor at one in the morning, dancing with strangers, not a mask in sight.
And it was a beautiful thing.
It was Friday afternoon when the school bell rings, the last day of class, the first bike ride in spring, the unexpected snow day.
Freedom, pure and simple.
And freedom feels good.
And there is plenty to go around. I have friends who were dismissive of the mask thing, although they, too, complied, but not without some angst of their own. They didn’t agonize about the value of wearing the mask as much as they struggled with their feelings around being told what to do, being subtly or not so subtly shamed, the aggravation of friendships, relationships reshaped by a thin piece of cloth about the nose and mouth. So, no more of that.
Back to normal now. Or almost.
For years I have disgorged from aircraft into airports teeming with people in masks and I have never understood it. The spectacle of it. Now, I get it and I am even relieved because airports scare me. I am no germaphobe but my imagination runs wild in international airports when I think of the crush of humanity who pass through, exposing me to who knows what, and I go a little nuts with it.
Now, like a good neighbor, I can wear a mask when I want, lull myself into thinking I am protecting myself, reassuring the international traveling public I am protecting them from me. And I can do it with no self-consciousness at all. Once on the plane I can eat my peanuts in peace, fall asleep maskless with my mouth open and dream the dreams of the innocent. Or wear a mask the whole flight.
Free, then, to do it my way.
Like the way I dance, at one in the morning.
Look, don’t look, who cares, I’m having fun. My mood lifting as my mask does. And each day a little more freedom, something I have missed.