The phrase “the new normal” is one of many newly ubiquitous expressions that has grated on me. I know that we have all had to adapt to a new way of living during the pandemic, but to call it our “new normal” implies that we are conforming to this way of living from now on. Some things will change, for sure, but a lot of our current way of life is simply not sustainable. I think we can reasonably expect for many things to eventually return to our old normal (or, you know, NORMAL), though hopefully as safely and responsibly as possible.
I think we should be documenting quarantine, these crazy ways in which we’re currently living for posterity, specifically, to remind us what we took for granted and to do what we can to prevent repeating history.
Here are some things that I, personally, would like to remember from quarantine:
When the playgrounds shut down
This was tough, especially once schools were closed for the year, but I knew it was necessary. The sight of the most popular playgrounds in town sitting completely empty on a gorgeous afternoon is both unsettling and encouraging. It represents the magnitude of the pandemic and also the solidarity of the community, doing what they can to keep each other safe.
When our parents became our children
My mom is a recently retired ICU nurse of 40+ years. Exposure to infectious diseases is nothing new to her. It’s because of her that I was raised a germaphobe and completely prepared, even before the pandemic, with all the disinfectant wipes, soap, and hand sanitizer I could need. Despite her age and additional risk factors, I had nothing to worry about as far as her taking precautions, so I thought.
Until she called me from Costco.
When we became barbers
Honestly, I think I did a pretty decent job. We’ve certainly paid for worse haircuts. This might be something I continue to do for my kids, who only require that I not cut them and that I give them a lollipop at the end.
When we attempted to school our kids at home
I am most looking forward to the end of this, but if I need to do it again in the fall or even longer, at least I know what to expect (or not to expect). I am not an adequate replacement for their teachers and class Zoom chats are not nearly the same as playing with their friends in person. Oh, and remember: Always accessorize big for Zoom.
When our kids resorted to passive-aggressive forms of rebellion
Who has more power than Mom and Dad? I don’t know, Facebook?
For the record, I told her to do her school work.
When our kids really bonded with their siblings
Sometimes that bonding took the form of hitting and screaming at each other, but more often, they enjoyed always having someone to play with or to convince to do their bidding.
When we learned that face masks aren’t so bad
We wear them to protect each other, but it doesn’t hurt when they’re cute and they conceal everything from our dry skin to our judgmental snickering at people who aren’t wearing masks.
When we all spent a little more time outdoors
Family walks, bike rides, hikes, etc.—being outdoors has never been more important. Although we would prefer not to be forced to enjoy these as our only forms of entertainment, I want to remember how good it felt to slow down and appreciate being outside. Luckily, we can’t hear the whining through the photos.
When the kids had to play with the neighbors from a distance
Sadly, my kids could no longer invite the neighbor kids inside our house, pull out every toy we own, then take it all outside to be thrown in the yard and abandoned, but only after commenting on the messiness of our house. Sadly. But they found a way to play together at a safe distance and with minimal toy dumping. If we need to continue these practices for the sake of our community’s health, I think we can manage.
When we had to say “Happy Birthday” and “goodbye” to our friends from the car
This was another part of quarantine that was hard, but reassuring. I know everyone would rather celebrate or say goodbye in person, but seeing groups of friends caravan through neighborhoods, waving, holding signs and balloons, and tossing out gifts to make a friend feel appreciated was so much sweeter than any Chuck E. Cheese party I’ve ever attended. Bonus: No need to change out of your pajamas!
When we were all over it
My kids let me know in their own special way that they were done with Mom School. Unfortunately, it was shortly before they were officially finished for the year, but I understood. I was done with it, too. I was done with it a long time ago.
I’m afraid we still have a long road ahead of us, but it won’t be forever. I refuse to believe that this will be any more than a temporary moment in history that will be fascinating to look back on one day. So take plenty of pictures, write about this time in your life, keep all these memories, even the hardest parts. Then, do whatever you can to make sure that this is not, in fact, our new normal.