The first indication I had that a birthday was coming up was a card from the local retirement center. Wait! I thought. How can I be old enough to be hearing from them. Somehow, I have been parking myself in the sixties garage for a long time to come. But time moves on no matter what I think, and I have zoomed into the next decade. I decided to enjoy it.
So, last Friday, we went out to a Thai restaurant that had opened just before the pandemic hit. We had not eaten at any local restaurants since last February, and it felt comfortingly “normal” to hear the kitchen preparations and conversations as we sat at our small table at a respectable distance from others. I’m not sure how the restaurant has survived this long, but being near a university that is holding some in-person classes must help. They gave us a complimentary bowl of coconut ice cream as they invited us to come back. I hope they survive as the virus continues and mutates, spiraling into an unknown future.
Saturday dawned clear and cold as a Colorado winter day. Our neighbors built a kettle fire early and invited us to come observe as they set up and began to process a hog on tables set up behind their duplex. They had every gadget available to make ground and stuffed sausage, smoke the hams, and package chops, etc. We were comfortable in the sheepskin padded chairs around the fire. We took our cups of tea to sip as we chatted. Later in the day, after we left, others came with children to play on the trampoline with the neighbors’ two.
Mid-morning, we drove across the Blue Ridge mountains to Montpelier, the home of James Madison. There, the wide-open spaces with trails in fields and forest refreshed our spirits as we walked where few others crossed our paths. From there, we drove into the town of Orange and found a spacious place for lunch–The Silk Mill. We felt safe, as customers had more than ample room to sit. Restaurant staff were super vigilant about mask-wearing–almost obsessively so.
We had just finished eating when I was alerted to a family google chat meeting. My sister and four of her children, with their families, all showed up to wish me a happy birthday. One family joined from Wyoming, one from southern PA, another from Baltimore, and one from Poland. Each family sang their own version of Happy Birthday, and it was cool to hear one in Polish! So as not to disturb others when we talked, we moved from the main eating area to another very large and completely empty dining room. People only passed through a small part of it coming and going. I thought we had plenty of distance between ourselves and others, so I partially took off my mask in order to be better understood. Still, a staff person came from the other dining room to ask us to wear masks at all times inside—even though we had been closer to others without masks when we were eating. I am glad they are careful though. We probably won’t go to another restaurant to eat for a while, though we may order in.
On Sunday, my sister and her husband, whom we consider in our same bubble, invited us for a tasty dinner at her house like my mother would have made: roast beef, mashed potatoes, corn with limas, pineapple salad, and homemade pie–which I had requested instead of cake. In the blackberry/cherry pie center was one big candle–symbolic of a big birthday.. It was good to be with family in the farm house I grew up in.
No big trip or big bucks spent, but it was just fine for the times we are in. As a holocaust survivor said, “Every day one is alive is a good day.” As we hear of more deaths and illnesses surrounding us, that seems like a good mantra.