Back to…normal?

My last in person, inside event was March 8, 2020. My son went to his best friends birthday party (laser tag!) and I went to the local yarn shops’ annual yarn crawl. The day before, the boys had been to their monthly outdoor camp. The previous weekend had included a birthday party trip to the Monster Truck show with a school friend, and the one before had been the annual LEGO show. In between, my husband had had a cold for a few days, and so had I. My son, with the busiest schedule, had missed three days of school that week. It was normal life, with grown-up concern about what might happen with this virus, but no change in any of our activities. Outdoor School was starting for my 6th grade students the next day, and everyone was excited.

About a third of the 6th graders did not show up for Outdoor School, and the state cancelled all field trips and overnight programs midweek, so they were all hustled back abruptly in the middle of their trip. Schools and everything else shut down a week later, and I stayed inside. Despite being the first in my little family to be vaccinated (since I’m a teacher), I also ended up being the one with the least exposure to the outside world. I have asthma and catch everything that goes around and taught from home from April 2020-mid-April 2021. My husband had to go out sometimes to meet with his architecture clients anyway, so he also took on all the grocery shopping to keep the risk confined to one person. After vaccination, I went immediately into hybrid teaching while still recovering from pneumonia, so I did not get to ease back into real life at my own pace and on m,y own terms, and decided that my exposure through students was enough for the moment. I relaxed enough in June to take my mask off at our outdoor neighborhood block party. I took my son to the zoo. We went to the beach for the day. But then within weeks, we were hit with delta. Then fully in person back to school. Then omicron. Between an insane work load, health concerns, and an increasingly deteriorating knee joint, I have not even spent my normal amount of time doing outdoor activities. No hiking, no walks in the neighborhood – not even my normal gardening. Toss in some introversion, a healthy dose of social anxiety, and indoor hobbies (I can read and knit inside the house just fine, thank you very much), and it was beginning to feel like I would never leave the house again.

Finally, though, cases started dropping and things started opening up more and more. An event that my family really enjoys, the LEGO Bricks Cascade public show, was scheduled to return for the first time since late February 2020. Everyone would be required to be masked, and vaccination cards or negative PCR tests from the last 72 hours would be checked at the door. That finally felt safe enough to try. We made plans. We invited our son’s best friend, whom he had not seen in person for the last year, and not seen inside since that fateful “before” weekend in March. This seemed like progress.

A funny thing happened amongst all the plans. The state decided to end the mask mandate on March 31. On March 19. On March 12. Ultimately, the pandemic phase of the pandemic was declared over on March 10, and all mandatory restrictions of any kind were ended yesterday. Private businesses could make their own decisions, but the mandates were gone. At this point, like most people, we have no idea what is safe and what is not safe behavior. We can no longer make risk calculations, because we do not really understand the risks, or how they might compare to anything else. If I am vaccinated and masked, am I more or less likely to get sick than I am likely to be hit by lightning? Be in a plane crash? Win the lottery? Catch the bubonic plague? I have no idea.

We decided to stick it out and go out anyway. The kids had been vaccinated; the grown-ups had been vaccinated and boosted, and we agreed that we would all wear masks. If not now, we were running the real risk that one of us (me) might never go to an indoor public event ever again.

It was not as scary as I thought it would be. At least 80% of the people were masked, and everyone was friendly. No one got any grief for wearing or not wearing a mask. LEGO people are always polite and friendly and today was no different. We saw some amazing builds and clever ideas, the kids got to renew a lifelong friendship which had lately been getting strained by limited and virtual only contact, and I was allowed to spend way too much money buying weird little military LEGO things for my 11 year old. Then we went back to our house and he and his friend got to play inside for the first time in two years. I got to hear kids playing in the house again.

Of course, this also involved hearing conversational fragments like, “I have a glow in the dark assault rifle,” and “These LEGO guys have cheated at war, so now they are being executed for war crimes.” I thought executing little LEGO minifigs with giant Nerf guns seemed a bit of overkill, but the boys just rolled their eyes. Apparently, the LEGO guys had been REALLY bad.

So, everything is settling back to normal. Or as normal as it gets with tween boys running around.

If you need me, I’ll be hiding from the Nerf guns.

11 thoughts on “Back to…normal?

  1. What a pandemic journey it has been! Having been pretty cautious these past two years, I totally understand. Really excited about your Lego adventure. You captured the tween conversation snippets just right! I too am hiding from the Nerf guns.

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  2. The long prelude to the big moment of going out was the perfect parallel to how life has been for the last couple of years. You can knit and read inside, just fine, as can I, and I bet it feels great to play for those boys!

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    1. Oh, they were so excited to play in person! I told my husband that if we did not go anywhere ever again, we’d survive. We’ve been many places and done many things. But our son’s life ground to a halt when he was 9, and he needs to be able to go out more. Ironically, he’s been doing his usual outdoor camps and bike rides and hikes with his dad, so he ended up being out in the world a lot more than I did anyway.

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  3. It seems like it takes a bit more courage to go out these days. Thank goodness for our children who we care so much about that we are willing to take risks for them. Our children make us more courageous. Glad you are doing well these days.

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  4. It’s always interesting to hear people’s pandemic stories and how different our experiences have been. Tomorrow marks our first mask optional day at school…I anticipate there will be few masks in our school. Glad you are back in the world…and braving that tween dialogue (and accompanying action). As the mother and grandmother of boys, I definitely get it!

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    1. Tomorrow is our first mask optional day at school also. I am very curious about how it will go. I thought there would be very few masks, but there were so many more people still masked this weekend that I might be wrong.

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      1. I feel like I’ve seen very few masks since the statewide (not school) mandate was lifted a couple of weeks ago. I, too, am curious about how it will go tomorrow. We already talked as a class about honoring each person’s choice.

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  5. It’s so hard to know what the ‘right’ thing to do is. With rules quickly changing in Korea, I’m not quite sure what to do either. How do we keep everyone safe? Who knows…

    I’m glad you got out and had fun. We do need to move on with our lives. It’s just hard to do when we’ve lived through the past 2 years.

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