It’s been so long since I’ve experienced a true, no-restrictions party that I’m no longer certain when and what to celebrate. Yet, in the context of these peculiar times, such an occasion recently arrived with complete clarity, albeit sans balloons and champagne: my 93-year-old grandmother’s full COVID-19 vaccination.
My elderly Japanese grandmother, Tatsuko, lives with my mother, and in recent years they have split their time between my hometown of Livingston and the Flathead Valley to be closer to me, my wife and two young sons. But they have largely hunkered down in Livingston throughout the pandemic, abruptly pausing their relationship with the boys. It’s been extremely hard on everybody.
Now, with my grandma’s immunization and my mother receiving her first Moderna dose, light is flooding the tunnel. There’s a storybook timing to it all: amid the emergence of spring and all the renewed life it brings, right at the one-year anniversary of the pandemic’s onset.
The mood within my household appears to mirror the broader nation’s collective hopefulness, as we start turning the page on this dark chapter. Obviously, we’re not out of the woods yet, but the contrast between this March and last March is so stark that it commands optimism, although I say that as someone who’s been lucky not to have lost anybody close to COVID-19. One in five Americans is not as fortunate.
We’ve come to normalize the new normal, but a year, while long, isn’t so vast of a period that we’ve forgotten our lives before this altered reality arrived. For many, in fact, the memories of our past selves are clarifying as the horizon does the same. We can vividly recall the parties and gatherings, the carefree trips to grocery stores and restaurants, the subtle shape of our grandmothers’ smiles and specific timbre of their laughs.
That was us. It will be once again.
All of which is to say we miss our traditions and routines, small and large. The coming months will incrementally deliver them to our lives once again, as the cover of Flathead Living commemorates. But we must smartly balance our bubbling enthusiasm with continued precautions.
Our country has lost more than half a million Americans to the virus, and while more deaths will inevitably be added to that grim tally, let’s minimize the toll by controlling any urge to haphazardly accelerate our return to “normalcy.” Instead, we should rejoice in the small steps along the way. The causes for celebration may be unconventional and muted, such as a needle in the arm of a 93-year-old woman, but collectively they comprise the parts that will make us whole once again.
Spring is here, and light is breaking through. Enjoy it responsibly but thoroughly. And, when the time comes, hug like you never have before.
* This column appears as the Editor’s Note in the spring edition of Flathead Living.
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