And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

You know, this whole end-of-pandemic or fading-of-pandemic time has been on the odd side. I’ve had moments of anxiety, moments of sheer joy, moments of disbelief. I was thinking back over my almost 61 years, and I guess I can’t remember any other time of extended fear and worry like we’ve all just lived through, and so at least in my experience, this is also the first time of recovery.

Going out again. Eating in restaurants. Seeing movies. We’re planning on going to the Van Gogh immersion experience in July, and I’ll be traveling to Oregon in July too. Getting on a plane. Next weekend, I’m teaching my first live and public event in over a year. It’s really strange how odd normal feels. And I suppose that’s because normal isn’t quite the same either.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how on a Saturday, Michael, Olivia and I really immersed ourselves into our new freedom. Michael and I ate lunch IN a McDonalds, went INTO a grocery store, went home and grabbed Olivia and went TO a mall, then out to dinner IN an Applebees. By then, I was so giddy, I didn’t want to go home, so we went TO a movie theater and sat INSIDE of it. In the mall, I even dared to take off my mask. It felt so…risqué. And amazing!

From there, I’ve watched as, one by one, the on-site classes and coaching clients are returning to AllWriters’. Instead of looking at my local students Brady-Bunch-style on Zoom, they’re sitting around me. They’re smiling and laughing and talking, and their faces aren’t freezing and their voices aren’t suddenly turning robotic. The view behind them is the same as my own, not a manufactured pastoral scene. They’re REAL!

Smiles. I am seeing so many smiles. I’m feeling smiles on my own face.

But I think the best so far happened just this Saturday. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been reading to my granddaughter, Grandbaby Maya Mae, over Zoom. She lives less than two miles from me, and not being able to see her was oh so hard. Since things have gotten better, I have seen her several times. She was here for Mother’s Day. I took her to the movies as soon as I hit two weeks post-second vaccine. And on this particular Saturday, we had a date to go to the movies again. It was just the two of us.

Popcorn. Soda. Sitting side by side in the red leather reclining seats at the theater. The big screen. Maya and Me.

Partway through the movie, I glanced over at her, and it turned out she was just glancing at me. As our eyes met, she smiled. And it was just the best smile ever. It was a Grandma, I’ve Missed You So Much smile. It was an Aren’t We Having Fun? smile. It was a This Moment Is Just Perfect smile.

And I beamed back.

You know those moments where it just seems like all the cogs fall into place? The past falls away, the future doesn’t matter, it’s just now and now is wonderful. That was one of those moments. I felt the pandemic and all its trappings fall off my shoulders.

What followed was a great discussion of the movie. Maya always has the best observations. And you know what? I’m still reading to her at night too. We’re going through all the Beverly Cleary books that I enjoyed as a kid, and so did Maya’s aunts and uncles and her father. Maya is laughing at all the same parts the 8-year old me laughed, and my kids laughed too. Connections across the generations, through books and through writers.

Oh, man. What a hard time it’s been. And how happy I am to be here now. There is a new caution to my step. But there is great joy at fresh air on my face.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Grandbaby Maya Mae as she transitions from a 2nd grader to a 3rd grader!
At a Brewers game a couple weeks ago, where a nice guy gave Maya a ball hit during batting practice.

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