Last week felt almost normal. On Monday morning, I went to the dentist. My appointment originally had been scheduled for mid-March, but, like myriad other early-spring plans, had been pushed back because of the pandemic.
“Would it be OK if I brought my two daughters with me?” I had asked beforehand. “I don’t think I’ll be able to get a babysitter for 8 a.m. that day.”
The receptionist, also a mom, had said, “No problem, I completely understand.” She asked, though, that the girls wear masks.
Masks? Of course, I’d replied. Face masks have become part of the “things” we pack up as we’re leaving the house.
Wallet, phone, keys, masks? Check, check, check, check, ready to go.
Face masks have become part of the “things…”
Many more buildings and businesses have reopened here in the Capital Region of New York, which is encouraging to see. On Tuesday, the girls and I drove over to Stuyvesant Plaza. Our main destination: Stride Rite for new sneakers for the girls.
The outdoor shopping village featured more benches than I remembered—in an effort to facilitate alfresco social distancing, I guessed—and the flowers in the omnipresent hanging baskets were in full bloom.
“This is awesome!” Grace and Anna cheered. They were delighted to be somewhere other than our backyard or the local bike path. I was too (dentists’ offices usually aren’t that much fun, even in the best of times).
The three of us wore our masks into Stride Rite, and used the complimentary hand sanitizer upon entering.
Everywhere we went, we discovered, had hand sanitizer abundantly available. Meanwhile, everyone we chatted with, from store employees to other customers, was friendly and patient. It seemed as though folks were glad to be out and about again, while respecting the value in sanitizing and social distancing.
After the girls decided on their sneakers, we picked up a book of stamps at the post office and then stopped at Starbucks for coffee (me) and sweets (the girls). The three of us arrived just in time to grab the last remaining table outside.
It felt like a win, friends. #littlethings
…the flowers in the omnipresent hanging baskets were in full bloom.
Later, I needed to call our bank. During the call, the customer service representative asked if I would update some information.
Sure, I said. First, I verified Stanton’s and my email addresses.
Next, the woman asked my occupation.
I paused. “Hmm…”
“Homemaker, or unemployed?” she helpfully suggested.
Are those the only two options? I wondered. “I’m a contract writer/editor for a college,” I said, “but they haven’t needed me for a few months.”
“Right, so…” I don’t know what the customer service rep filled in for my occupation. It shouldn’t have seemed like a trick question. In this time of widespread layoffs, furloughs and salary reductions, however, it was.
“Next time, just say ‘writer,'” Stanton said later. “You are a writer, Mel.”
I really can’t express the gratitude I feel for my husband’s (my best friend’s) respect for my writing, despite its current state of diminished paychecks, and lack of Pulitzer Prizes. ❤
Are those the only two options? I wondered.
Crazily enough—or maybe not so crazily enough—this pandemic and its accompanying repercussions (stay-at-home safety measures, overwhelming news reports, etc.) have given me the time and space to work on some fiction writing.
Many an afternoon, I glance at Google News so that I have a general sense of what in the world is going on in the world. Then I set my phone aside and, while the girls are playing in their inflatable pool—arguably the best $99 I ever spent—I write in a notebook with a pen, old school style.
The notebook I’m currently using started out as Grace’s. It has doughnuts on the cover (all shapes, sizes and colors) and 60 sheets inside, the first handful of which feature drawings Grace did in both pencil and crayon. The drawings are very good, and I didn’t mean to poach my 8-year-old’s notebook. I had filled up another one, though (one of my own), and the doughnuts one just happened to be right there, when I needed a notebook.
Grace said it was OK.
You see, if I use my laptop to write, it’s too easy for me to break away from Microsoft Word and begin clicking on websites. Same with my phone. Then before I know it, I’ve spiraled down an online rabbit hole of information overload (and anxiety), or selected “Place Order” for another picture frame, throw pillow or other home decor item that we really don’t need (even though “Up to 50% Off Everything AND Free Shipping!!”).
Note to self: Beware of multiple exclamation points in advertising copy.
Thus…in this time of supercharged video conferencing, remote communication apps and technological prowess, I am retreating (regressing?) from my devices in favor of a doughnuts notebook and ballpoint pen…at least momentarily.
I have found when I write like this, pen to paper, writing in my own hand, that I am very much in the moment, in the zone, with the story. Writing fiction right now, also, has been wonderfully refreshing escapism. And who knows—the end result may even be something some folks will want to publish, and other folks will want to read.
If so, I’ve already decided: We’ll celebrate with doughnuts.
Speaking of doughnuts (and why not keep speaking of doughnuts?)… Last Thursday, the girls and I went to Indian Ladder Farms, our first time there this whole year, I think.
Grace and Anna stuffed their pockets with quarters. Once we arrived, they cranked their bounty into the animal-food machines, cupping their hands underneath as the food flowed out. The girls fed some goats while I snapped the obligatory pictures for our summer-fun family photo album.
After running out of quarters, the three of us walked over to the market. Inside, we bought a half dozen of Indian Ladder Farms’ regionally famous apple cider doughnuts (yes, we’d like the ones with the sugar on top), as well as a large Jamaican Me Crazy coffee for, mm-hmm, yours truly. “I have not had this coffee in so long,” I told the lovely lady behind the counter.
She smiled and told us to enjoy.
Indian Ladder Farms is a century-old agritourism site, located in a space of breathtaking natural beauty. I had been concerned about its sustainability during this difficult time, but was encouraged to see about 20 new picnic tables that had been dispensed outside the market, inviting folks to enjoy their market fare outdoors, or carry out takeout from the adjoining Yellow Rock Café (indoor dining is currently unavailable). So many local businesses are making huge efforts to safely serve their customers, and I hope they all come out OK and possibly even better than before.
As always, the apple cider doughnuts did not disappoint, and I drank every last drop of my Jamaican Me Crazy.
Speaking of doughnuts (and why not keep speaking of doughnuts?)…
It’s been good to begin feeling “almost normal” again. There’s still a long way to go, of course, and there’s also no going back. Moving forward, things will be/stay different. But really, I have no idea what’s going to happen.
In addition to forgoing my laptop in favor of a doughnuts notebook, I’ve been trying to be—cliché alert!—present. I’ve been making an effort to really be in each moment, to look my daughters in the eye when we’re together and be there, and most of all, to take each day as it comes and not get too bogged down with what might happen a few weeks out, a few months out, the rest of our life.
For me, it’s been helpful to center on one day, only. Today.
Today, I can get up. I can get moving. I can make my girls breakfast (and then a snack half an hour later). 😉
Today, I need to do these three things. I can do that, today.
I can handle today, what is right here in front of me today.
…I’ve been trying to be—cliché alert!—present.
Yesterday, I was in the backyard with the girls. They had been swimming, but were taking a break in chairs near the pool. Earlier, I had brought out two bottles of Gatorade and a box of Ritz crackers for them to share while I wrote nearby (doughnuts notebook and pen: check!).
“We’re probably going to eat this whole box of crackers, Mom,” Grace said, ripping apart another sleeve.
“And drink all the Gatorade,” Anna added, guzzling from her bottle.
I kept scribbling in my notebook, not completely paying attention. “OK, girls.”
The girls began laughing triumphantly. “Oh, my gosh! The whole box of crackers and all the Gatorade!”
Now I looked up and started laughing too. “OK, just…just hang on a minute.”
It was a normal moment. We were in the backyard, livin’ large on Ritz crackers and Gatorade, inflatable pool nearby. But when I looked up from what I was doing, looked up and joined my daughters in that present moment…it was beautiful, and felt almost holy to me.
To be together. To be there.
Cheers to TODAY.
Photo credit: Pixabay
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