Things I miss from the before times

There’s so much I miss about life before coronavirus.

I mean, yes, there’s the obvious. I haven’t hugged my parents in over a year. I haven’t kissed my sweet baby nephew ever and if you could see the way he smiles, you would know that’s a crime against humanity.

And I miss childcare. Oh my goodness, do I miss childcare. Not in a “oh my gosh I’m so sick of my kids” kind of way, but in a “my God, it’s really nice to know someone else has your back” kind of way.

But there are other things I miss, too. Really dumb, pointless things that I didn’t even know were things until they were gone.

Like really hot french fries.

I’m craving really, hot french fries. Not french fries that got kinda warm soggy on the drive home. But really hot french fries that barely had 30 seconds to cool off between the kitchen and your table.

I want burn your mouth hot french fries. I want to eat them in a restaurant. I want to hear the waitress say, “Be careful, those fries are right out of the fryer so you might want to give them a minute to cool off,” and then eat them anyway.

I want to ignore the health advice of an authority figure who knows way more about the situation at hand than I do and just enjoy my damn french fries.

Come to think of it, this might be how we got ourself into this mess in the first place.

You know another meal time tradition I miss? Standing around a birthday cake and watching someone spit on it.

In the after times – when we’re all vaccinated and unmasked and find the passage of time something to cheer about again – are we ever going to watch someone blow out birthday candles without flinching?

I want to watch my kids and their friends blow out their birthday candles without worrying that we are all going to catch a potentially deadly disease. I want to watch those little cherubs blow droplets all over a cake and just assume I’m going to catch a non-deadly disease like I used to.

I do miss parties. And I do miss not socializing at them.

I want to stand around a bowl of potato chips (we used to do this? Let everyone stick their fingers in the same bowl?) and chit chat. But more than that, what I really miss is slinking to the back corner of the room and finding that one person who can actually get you through a social event. The person who you can crack jokes with and who can help you plan an early getaway. Those simple moments are gone now.

You can’t give a coworker a knowing glance on a zoom call. You can’t subtly roll your eyes at your brother when you’re on a family FaceTime. You can’t use the chat box to make a joke under your breath. Now all you can do is stare at a screen and pretend you are listening, which is the exact instructions I give my son every morning he has virtual school.

This pandemic has made me painfully aware I don’t know how to navigate group conversations, and I miss the days when I was blithely oblivious to that fact.

I did, however, use to know a lot more than everyone else about public health, and I miss that too.

Okay, not really, because that’s never been a particularly useful skill for me. But I actually went to grad school for this stuff!

I mean, sure, I mainly went to grad school to ride out a “once in a lifetime recession” (lol) but I did study public health while I was there. I tacked an entire Certificate of Public Health onto my M.A., thank you very much.

It’s totally worthless now though. I used to be able to explain what R0 values and index patients and zoonotic diseases were (not that anyone ever asked). I had assignments on how to conduct contact tracing. I mean sure, they looked a lot more like “figure out who at this potluck ate the gross potato salad and is going to end up vomiting in the bathroom,” and a lot less like “Did you give Grandma a deadly disease when you stopped by to say hello?” But still.

And now, so what? We have all literally spent more time reading about coronavirus than I ever spent studying as a grad student. We have all now become de facto contact tracers and lay experts in aerosolized droplet spread. All my knowledge is worthless.

I want my money back.

Group laughter. That’s another thing I miss. The sound of a group of people spontaneously bursting into laughter.

Let’s make a rule for Zoom calls. If you have to cough, sneeze, tell your kid to put on pants, or flush the toilet, please mute yourself. But if you’re gonna laugh, hit unmute. The people need to hear it.

You know what’s really quite discomforting? Muted people laughing in their little video boxes. It’s going to haunt my dreams long after this is over.

Speaking of dreams, I can’t wait to have a dream where I’m walking into class pantsless again. I haven’t had that dream since COVID started. Now I’m just showing up places mask-less.

In my actual nightmares, I’m walking around the grocery store and no one is wearing a mask. They’re all just out there, breathing and acting like everything is totally normal. It’s terrifying. This development has been particularly concerning to me because as a mom of three kids, going to the grocery store by myself used to be a literal dream.

Honestly, I would give anything to be at a birthday party with one of you people, eating hot french fries, cracking jokes, and trying to sneak out early.

I mean, I say I’d give anything to do that, but I don’t want to give you COVID.

So I guess it can wait.

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