Last weekend, I loaded my two daughters into the car and drove them into town. For the first time in over a year, we were all going shopping together, to pick out a birthday gift for my nephew.
“Now remember, try not to touch everything,” I said as we walked into a local bookstore that also sells some toys. The kids couldn’t resist, though. Being in a store was a novel experience, and the shimmering stuffed animals, colorful pens and plentiful books were just too much temptation. No one really minded though — both the shop owner and I looked on, smiling behind our masks, as the kids delighted in exploring the shelves.
Ultimately we picked out three presents for my nephew — a rocket that the kids launched high into the sky that afternoon, new paints and a book (which I insisted be included). As the shop keeper stuck a bow on the rocket, we chatted about how nice it is to come in and just browse, delighting in finding the perfect item rather than ordering exactly what we needed for curbside pick up or shipping. I walked out with a book that another customer had recommended after he saw me looking at it.
When we reached my nephew’s small birthday party — outside at a local park — it was extra sweet to see the kids playing together and opening presents. Before the pandemic, I probably would have grumbled about spending my afternoon at yet another kids’ birthday party. This year, however, being at a birthday party was suddenly a treat.
Throughout the U.S. and Canada, more and more people are being vaccinated, which means that we’re able to return to some level of normal activities. Many students returned to in-person learning for the first time this week, and even the high school seniors were happy to be back in the classroom.
“This is typically the time people get senioritis, so going back to school motivates you to finish strong,” Washington state high school senior Giselle Villasana told The Seattle Times.
HiKing Joseph, a 16-year-old in New Orleans, told The New York Times that the small moments — like a game of kickball with friends — are the best part about being back to school.
“You can’t do that at home by yourself,” he said.
When parents are excited about a kids’ birthday party and the teenagers are excited to get back to school, you know something is going on. It’s sweet to see though: after a year where the pandemic took away our more basic and mundane social interactions, we’re finally getting them back, with a whole new appreciation of exactly what they mean to us. Sure, I’ll soon be over kids’ birthday parties, and teens won’t always be excited to get into the classroom, but we’ll also remember, in the back of our minds, what life was like when we couldn’t do these things.
Just this morning I got a haircut for the first time in more than a year. As my hairdresser was trimming 12 months worth of dead ends, an older woman across the salon was chatting.
“You’re seeing kids in the grocery store again,” she said. “Who knew it would be so nice to have kids in the grocery store?”
While I will continue to enjoy food shopping without my children as long as I can, I understood what she meant. After a year of hunkering down and getting through, lots of us have a new appreciation for the tiny moments of interaction that bring joy into our days.
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