Last year everything shut down, quickly in a single week. It was a dizzying time of cancellations and closings. During the last two weeks, we are in the middle of openings. I remind myself repeatedly not to forget—not forget how closed we were and how hard that was, not forget how slowly we opened and what an unusual challenge re-opening has presented to us.
I appreciate that Massachusetts is opening slowly with much deliberations. Probably not perfectly, but what has been perfect about this time? The mask mandate expires on the weekend and I am grateful that Governor Baker announced the end of the mandate two weeks before it was to happen. Although very happy to imagine being maskless, I find I have reservations about completely abandoning our facial protections. Is it really that I cannot trust two shots and two weeks? Or is it that I cannot trust that those who will walk around maskless on Saturday are vaccinated? As of today 50% of Massachusetts are fully vaccinated; 69% have had at least one dose. The percentages are higher in Newton. During the weeks between announcement and maskless days, it has been comforting to be in stores and garden centers and see everyone masked. A year of protecting myself, protecting Julia, has left its mark.
The weekend before last, I went to two maskless gatherings—both small and everyone was vaccinated. A first meeting of a garden club—gathering in a garden, getting a bit of a tour and then sitting around a table, asking and answering questions. We fell into companionship and conversation as if the experience of the last year was erased and yet, I sat back a few time, marveling at this extraordinary event. Something that could only be dreamed of last year at this time. This was the first gathering of people I have known mainly on zoom. And I’ve complained and mused that zoom church, zoom meditation and meetings have not served me well this past year, but there was no one at that gathering that I would have felt familiar enough with last year to be comfortable in their company. Most of the faces I would have recognized from church services and polite greetings at coffee hour, but for many I have seen a corner of their home and listened to the how-are-you-doings and the gratitudes of zoom socializing. And I feel the miracle of the time. Although imperfect and some times isolating, the time has not been ill spent.
And then, on Sunday we had our usual-for-this-past-year, outdoor choir rehearsal and many of us went maskless. Singing without a mask! Remembering what unobstructed deep breaths felt like. Remembering what the unobstructed sound of other singers sounded like. It was rather giddy. At our zoom rehearsal on Wednesday evening, we talked about possibilities. Optimistic and realistic at the same time. We do not know if we will be able to sing together inside the church during a service, but there is a good chance of being able to sing together and record in the church itself when fall comes and play back our recordings during services. Whatever the constraints, we expect next winter to be easier than the winter that has passed. And the choir that has sung together on zoom-mute, learned music using guide tracks and recorded weekly is excited.
Last week grocery stores opened second doors and I recalled the closing of those door last year sent a chill up my spine. I used the once-locked door at Whole Foods yesterday and I imagined myself crossing a great divide. Russo’s, our fruit and vegetable grocery, made their disposal plastic gloves optional and no one is at the door counting customers. There was announcement or sign noting these changes but small fire works burst in my mind.
I have purelle in my car and a small pile of disposal masks. I have plastic gloves in the trunk. I have no plans as of yet to remove those things. My insurance. I also have a small basket by the front door for masks and hand cleaners that I have not moved. I remember odd things—empty egg cartons—and many cans of vegetables with faded labels found when cleaning out grandparents’ attics and basements preparing houses for sale and parents attributing those things to something their parents did during the depression. Will I become my grandparents and baffle some yet unborn progeny as they come to maturity?
Julia was told last week that she didn’t have to wear a mask during track practice but she did anyway. She does not complain about wearing the mask all day at school. The transition will take time for her. She has a track meet today. I wonder what she will do. It is hot and it can’t be comfortable running (which is still surprising to me that she runs at all) and breathing with a mask. The track team had the first of two meets yesterday. Julia rode the team bus, shared cookies I sent for snacks and got off feeling great. News from the coach was that Julia ran “the 100, a relay race, and did the long jump.”
Up to last weekend, the prom and graduation was divided in two, with restrictions on guests, no food and of course, masks. As of right now, both events will be single events and host the entire class. The prom will be longer, no masks need be worn (although we did find a very cut sequined masks that looked okay with Julia’s dress, so, I’m figuring that we will have one picture of that), and there will be food trucks. It is still at the school under a big tent and there is still a rain date. Just in case. Much of the same goes for graduation—one ceremony, no masks and under a tent. We are waiting to hear how many guests each student can invite.
There is a track meet scheduled for next Wednesday that conflicts with a sports assembly the same evening. Word from the powers-that-be is that the meet will be changed to Tuesday.
And the long awaited, at least in this house, Boston Fan Con that was set, rather optimistically in my view, for the beginning of August has been moved back a month. Our tickets, a Christmas gift to Julia, are still valid and will be automatically transferred. I am confident that putting it off a month will mean more attendance and more fun. And hopefully, safer as well.
Our small world has become more fluid—change is the order of the day. Change in a whispered breath. So many things that were set in stone in pre-pandemic days, are being reconsidered, reimagined, moved and changed. I think this is good news for those of us that see great needs for change in our communities, in the country and in the world.