A Birthday in a Weird Time

I wasn’t sure I was up to writing my annual birthday essay (see this and this). Like all of you, we are now leading a different life than we could have imagined just a few short months ago.

On the one hand, social distancing is not a whole lot different from any other day in quiet retirement, minus my foray to the gym. And the cancellation of our European trip. And the toilet paper Insecurity. And the paranoia about human contact. And the daily sanitizing of door knobs (previously never considered in our first 33 of living in this house.)

I will even admit to some pleasant aspects of isolation, which I recognize is mostly due to our privilege and good fortune. We are comfortably retired, we don’t need to work, we don’t live in a crowded area. So, the simplification of life, the quiet routines, the joy of preparing and consuming our meals, the constant company and companionship of my husband, the daily online check-ins with loved ones, the appreciation of birdsong, the lack of consumerism – these and more fill me with gratitude. It feels in one way that this is how life should be lived.

On the other hand, life is very different indeed. We can’t see our kids and have been furloughed from babysitting our grandchildren. Grocery shopping is anxiety inducing. And on our daily walks, when encountering others, we all automatically hop 6 feet away. Most of all, any pleasures we enjoy are tainted by a low level of sadness and dread. When can I see the family again? How can I help them? What if something terrible happens to someone I love? What will become of the world?

But, life goes on. Cora and Lo continue to grow and amaze. We have realized via our daily video chats that Cora, at 15 months and completely without speech, understands exactly everything. For example, while we adults were having a conversation about our dwindling supply of toilet paper, we saw Cora literally run into into the bathroom, return with a jumbo roll and offer it up to the screen. Bear in mind, she wears diapers.

And Lo, who doesn’t really understand what is going on, when informed that today would be my birthday, issued an invitation to have a party at her house. She said she would decorate. Her Aunt Sassy asked Lo what the party theme would be and without missing a beat, surprising all of us who expected a princess theme, said “Dogs and Bikes.”

I, for one, am ready for a princess theme

So, Happy Birthday to me, (I plan to take a hike and make a carrot cake) and love and health and safety to all of you. As we travel this unchartered territory and look forward to the books, 6-part documentaries, college courses and movies that will be forthcoming about 2020, remember that somewhere is a baby offering toilet paper and a preschooler with innovative party plans. Sometimes that’s all you need.

Small pleasures

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