The Gift of the Ordinary

I recently received an invitation to a bridal shower for my best friend’s future daughter-in-law, and it dawned on me that for the first time in a year, I could say yes to a social event. That there was even a social event occurring was cause for celebration. I was excited to write something on my calendar that was not a zoom meeting or vet appointment, and I immediately ran out to Target to buy a gift from the bride’s registry. I now have a reason to wear clothing other than jeans and go somewhere. The fact that, thanks to the timing of my vaccinations, I can safely be in a room with other people, albeit still masked and socially-distanced, leaves me humbled and grateful beyond words.

It’s been a long year of no’s. No family gatherings, no churches, no singing, no movies, no restaurants, no concerts, no travel, no sports. And when we do venture outside our homes, it’s with fear and trepidation. Do we have our masks and sanitizers? How close is that person I hear coughing in the grocery store? Is that a fever or am I just too warm? The high-tension wire of anxiety pulses through every interaction.

We have become acclimated to hiding. As much as we anticipate getting back to the things we love, I sometimes wonder if we’ll return to all those pre-pandemic in-person meetings and events. Has being plopped in front of the TV or computer screen each evening become just a little too comfortable and when those activities resume, will we say, “Nah, I’m not sure I need to do that anymore.”? This year has been an eternal snow day, which I used to revel in, but now I’ve had enough of the hermit life.

The weddings and graduations and packed stadiums and theaters will come back. But it’s the mundane stuff of our daily lives that shapes us and provides a structure so subtle we’re unaware of it until it’s suddenly taken away. Two months back into normalcy I’ll probably be whining about long choir rehearsals or some pointless meeting. But I’ll never again take those things for granted.

This weekend, for the first time in months, my husband and I ate inside a restaurant. Nothing fancy—just comfort food in a hometown place with plastic menus and cozy booths, now separated by plexiglass dividers. But the food was hot and fresh from the kitchen instead of lukewarm from a Styrofoam go-box. We’ve been living lukewarm from a plastic box for way longer than any of us expected. These tiny sparks of normal life—a simple restaurant meal served by another human being, a chance to celebrate a young bride in the company of others—are precious gifts of the ordinary, meant to be savored and appreciated as never before.