Now that Americans 18 and older can get vaccinated just by asking, there are a whole lot of us out in the world doing things for what feels like the very first time.
At least, it’s the first time in more than a year.
Things that never felt exciting before now have the aura of “Historic Firsts.” I mean things like First Walk Down Main Street. First Trip Inside the Post Office to Mail a Package. First Trip All The Way Into the Pharmacy (and not just putting my hand inside to pick up a pre-packaged bag)!
First Meal Sitting at a Restaurant with Friends. First Meal Actually Eating at a Restaurant with Friends! (And, yes, those were two different days, because the first time I was too nervous to take my mask off.)
Last Tuesday was my First Post-Pandemic Trip to a Shoe Store. This was a big deal because as a person with bunions I can’t expect any kind of mail-order shoe to fit without hurting and returning it would have required A Trip inside the Post Office. So no new shoes during COVID.
Last Wednesday, I celebrated my First Trip Returning Shoes to a Shoe Store, because while under the influence of “First Time” euphoria, I had overlooked the fact that these shoes didn’t fit me either.
My First Post-Pandemic Trip to a Grocery Store culminated in First Post-Pandemic Holding Up of the Line while looking for my membership discount card. It turns out I’ve lost the thing somewhere in my house, along with the purse I always kept it in. I’m sadly out of practice with such things. One thing hasn’t changed — I still forget to take my own bags to the store.
You may have a different set of Firsts — perhaps First Post-Pandemic Haircut or First Facial. But no matter what First you are celebrating, the most important part is recognizing that it IS a celebration.
It reminds me of the excitement of my children’s Firsts: First word. First tooth. First meltdown in a supermarket.
Perhaps what we need is a special kind of “Baby Book” — to record all our Post-Pandemic Firsts.
I know what a well-kept baby book looks like, because my mother did a wonderful job with mine. A copy of the birth announcement, a lock of hair from my first haircut, even the date of every disease and every immunization.
In fact, my mother did such a great job with this that I dusted it off a few years ago and carried it with me to the health office of a university where I was taking classes, where they had demanded proof that I’d had a measles vaccine.
“I can’t show you when I got a measles vaccine because I never got one!” I informed them pointedly. “I got my immunity the old-fashioned way — I got the measles. See?” And I pointed to the date, recorded in fading India Ink in my baby book.
They were duly abashed. I still had to provide a blood test proving I had some kind of antibodies, but it sure was fun seeing the look on their faces when I hauled out that baby book.
My own children, I’m afraid, will have no such triumphant moments. I started out with lots of good intentions, but soon ran out of steam. “The pediatrician has all their immunizations on file, anyway,” I reasoned, whereas I was too exhausted to find a pencil.
But I admit, I was jealous when I visited a friend a few years ago and saw an archival-quality closet door. Not only was each child’s height marked on the molding, but beside each mark was the child’s name, their height in feet and inches, and the date — all beautifully color coded for each child.
“I always meant to do this,” I said mournfully, “but I never got my act together.”
“I’m glad you like it,” said my friend. Then she paused before adding, “Um, did you notice how it’s just as beautifully done for the years before we ever lived in this house?”
“I never noticed that. How did you manage that?”
“I got it all from their doctor’s office and marked it up one night when I couldn’t sleep.”
Looks like I’m on my own, keeping track of my new Historic Firsts. I suppose the excitement will wear off eventually. But not too soon! Because after a year with too little happiness, I intend to feel every bit of joy I can manage.