Staying Alive vs. Living

Apparently a lot of people, including me, are suffering from a kind of “re-entry anxiety.” Even though vaccinated, the doubt about who else or is not vaccinated has people continuing to wear masks after the CDC says they don’t have to, in most (but not all) settings.

For the first few weeks of this freedom, I still wore a mask any time I went inside a building that wasn’t my own house. I wore a mask at drive through windows of fast-food restaurants, because the people working there still had to, and I thought it was only fair.

I wore a mask to my first eye exam in years, and I was very nervous when the ophthalmologist, who was also wearing a mask, asked me if I was vaccinated, and to take my mask off. I asked if I had to, and he said no, but the exam might take longer because I’d fog up the lenses he was switching (“better, or worse? 1 or 2?”) I resolved to breathe downward and keep my mask on.

After a few weeks of what we’ve been told is unnecessary masking, I began to think, dammit, at some point I’m just going to have to trust the science and take the mask off. What’s the point of making it through a pandemic to vaccination if I’m just going to continue living in fear and isolation?

This accursed pandemic came along just as Angelic Daughter and I were close to regaining some kind of balance and normalcy, carrying our grief within us but moving forward with our lives. Staying in has made us wary, lonelier, and more than a little jumpy. But as we got through the first meet-ups, the first hugs with family and friends who don’t live with us, things started to ease a bit.

I’m still nervous about variants, and now in some places the recommendation is to put the masks back on because of them. I’m also waiting to hear from the next rounds of research about whether we’ll need booster shots. But I just can’t waste any more time being paranoid and freaked out. There really isn’t any point to just staying alive, if you aren’t going to actually live.

As the calendar moves along, days come that are harder than others. Father’s Day has been tough for us these past 5 years, with all the unavoidable, perky ads about stereotypical things to buy Dad (grills!) bombarding us every time we turn on the car radio. This year, we chose a simple activity to remember Mike – we went to Dairy Queen and had a small treat each. We used to take family bike rides there, with Mike riding Angelic Daughter on a tandem, and me pumping along on my own bike. It wasn’t a short ride, but it was a beautiful one, along a bike path that led through a forest preserve, and then through a residential neighborhood to the DQ at the end of the block. Then we stopped by the cemetery where Mike’s ashes are buried, and despite prolonged dry weather, the flowers I planted there on Memorial Day weekend were OK. I watered them anyway, and was happy when what I gave them was augmented by a much needed gully washer of a stormy downpour that night.

As for Independence Day, our tradition has been to have a picnic at Mike’s grave site on the 4th, and we did that again this year, but on the 3rd, because the 4th was predicted to be very hot (it was) and we wanted to save a trip in case we wanted to go out near there to watch fireworks (we didn’t).

I’ve been spending every fair weekend doing yard work until I can barely stand. It makes me very sweaty and quite happy. But it is a solitary pursuit. For my next act, I have to find things to do that might actually put me in the company of people unrelated to me, with shared interests, who might become new friends. I’ve never had a lot of friends, and I’ve always been happy in my own company, but the lack of social interaction during work-from-home has affected me.

My wonderful employer is likely to let me work from home indefinitely, which is great (saves so much gas money, and gets me out in the yard as soon as I log off). But I don’t want to be just the solitary “widow with the garden.” I love to sing. I love to make people laugh. When I can figure out a way to do that again that feels safe, maybe I can get out there and make some new friends.

Wish me luck!

Until then I remain,

your less-frequently masked, still a little jumpy but feeling more confident,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Generations

dino ash tray

Apparently there’s a meme eruption ongoing on Twitter about how Gen X reacts to both Boomers and Millennials, sandwiched as Xers are between those two large and influential generations.

“Just remember, ” says the caption to a still from the Breakfast Club (“Brat Pack”), for every Boomer that hates a Millennial, there’s a generation in between that hates you both.”

There are reminders of Boomers trying to squash heavy metal music (remember Tipper Gore and Dee Snider?) and GIFs of Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller subtly smirking.

I’ve never determined exactly which generation I identify with, or as. Technically, I’m supposed to be a Boomer, but I’m at the tail end of that very broad generation. I’m told I’m “Generation Jones,” exhausted by the sheer mass of the older Boomers (my eldest brother’s cohort) scorching the earth ahead of me, and leaving me with…the late ’70s. Feh.

I also identify with older Xers – the John Hughes movie generation, like Molly Ringwald as the kid whose birthday was forgotten because all the focus was on an older sibling. The in-between feeling has always been there: I remember exactly where I was when John Kennedy, John Belushi, Kurt Cobain, and Chris Farley died. Where does that put me on the generational spectrum?

Like Jonesers or Xers or whatever I am, I tended to keep my head down, and just got on with it. My older brother’s cohort made so much noise that there just wasn’t any point to it by the time I was old enough to vote. My absentee ballot arrived in Oxford, England, where I was on a program of study abroad, after Ronald Reagan had already been elected. I rode my bike to the Old Bodley (Bodleian Library) in tears that day.

I got good grades, did what I thought would make my parents happy, and went to an exceptional liberal arts college with such an eclectic student body that I graduated with only one friend, since vanished from my life. I went on to make a lot of choices that delayed gratification, put me on a painful career track that was all wrong for me, and left me as the “on call” adult child for parental care giving (with the notable exception of my Mother’s last year of life, when my eldest brother stepped in because, even though I was closest, my own responsibilities made it impossible for me to be there daily for her.)

But something interesting has happened with the younger Millennials/older Gen Zers, (who make up a large portion of my work colleagues.) I’ve felt very little generational tension, if any. Sure, when the “question of the day” comes up around 2:30 in the afternoon as a brief break in a relentlessly busy day, my answers are often recognizable to my coworkers as something their grandparents might say, but nobody ever gives me grief about it. The only reaction I get is one of genuine interest, appreciation, or non-judgmental curiosity.

Of course, I’m clueless about a lot the the stuff they’re into – I know nothing about multiplayer videogames, and I’ve usually never heard of the cartoons, TV programs or toys they remember fondly. But I jump in with an answer that is generation-specific. Favorite cartoons? Why, Looney Tunes, of course–the Bugs Bunny show!

“Overture, coit-an lights!
Dis is it, da night of nights!
No more re-hoising, or noissing a paht!
We know every paht by haht!”

(the Mel Blanc-voiced, Brooklyn-accented Bugs!)

Road Runner, Yosemite Sam, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Boris and Natasha! Thanks to YouTube, maybe some of my colleagues will discover these older cartoons, from the era where Saturday morning cartoons were uproariously funny, full of double entendre for parents who were watching (“I’ll unhorse thee, Sir Loin of Pork!” “I’ll run you through, Sir Hosis of the Liver!”) and much too violent to get by today–but hey, they were cartoons!

One question last week was about the relative coolness of particular dinosaurs. I was not among the generation of children who became obsessed with dinosaurs. We were more obsessed with astronauts–and my interest stretched from Flash Gordon to Star Trek to Star Wars. But I was able to offer a little quiz with a photo of the object pictured above. Identify the company and the business it was in, and bonus points for what the object was. Of course, Google solved the riddle almost immediately, and one of my colleagues even found a picture of a gas station with a giant green dinosaur mascot on a lawn next to the pumps. These places are gone in my area, but apparently still exist out west. Who knew?

Did you come of age feeling sandwiched between generations? Tell me your story.

Until then, I remain,

your generationally confused, but not particularly worried about it,

Ridiculouswoman

Tree for Two

Mike used to make us wait to the second week of December to get a tree, but Angelic Daughter and I went to fetch one from the big box hardware store early on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Double masked and distanced, I motored in to the outdoor section where the Christmas trees were. Since Mike died, we’ve been getting smaller trees that don’t require me to get up on a ladder to do the lights or the tree topper. Falling and breaking a hip or an arm would be, erm, …. non-optimal.

I went straight for the 6′-7′ section, grabbed one of the shortest trees, gave it a cursory once-over and decided it would do.

Self-check out, and I stood back a good 20 feet while the chain-saw guy cut a slice off the end so the tree could absorb water better. Asked him to chuck it over the chain that separated me from the saw area. Picked it up off the floor, stuffed in the back of the Subaru, and off we went.

The annual Christmas tree fight Mike and I used to have about the tree originated mostly from our inability to use our tree stand correctly. It has a foot pedal in its base, and a separate piece you attach to the trunk of the tree.

You’re supposed to fit the tree, with the separate piece attached, into the base. Then you depress the foot pedal and waggle the tree around until one of you pronounces it straight.

The problem was, we rarely remembered that the piece attached to the trunk is supposed to snap in to the bottom of the base.

For 17 years, we waggled the tree, pronounced it straight, and pushed the foot pedal back into the base, which was supposed to lock the tree in place. It rarely worked, and we settled for teetering trees in danger of keeling over.

This year, I got the tree stand to work the way it’s supposed to after just a few tries. I got the “click” I needed when I lopped off a few more branches to get the attachable base high up enough on the tree.

Minor waggling, and it was straight. Push the pedal in, locked!

Then for the lights. I tested the strings before I started. Predictably, when I got lights around the entire tree and plugged them in, the top half didn’t light up.

Sigh.

My old self would have spend a good 15 minutes swearing and yelling. This year, redoing the lights seemed like a minor inconvenience. Second time around, they lit up just fine. I probably just hadn’t plugged them together tightly enough. Sigh.

We used to put the tree in front of the bay window in our “library” room. I turned that room into a dining room that could seat six. It’s kind of a combo library/dining room with a clubby atmosphere – reading chairs in the window, and another in a corner by the bookcases. I love it, sloppy paint job and all.

The front room, where the fireplace is, to me has always been a more natural habitat for a Christmas tree. My idea for that room was a kind of pseudo-eighteenth/nineteenth century parlor, where guests have conversation before dinner, and the ladies retire after dinner to sip and chat, while the gentlemen enjoy their brandy (but no cigars, not in this house) in the clubby dining room.

I went overboard. Too much furniture. I’ll find another place for four chairs, or sell at least two of them. I liked two I bought online for their eighteenth century shape and animal pattern. Online, the background had appeared to be a lovely gold color.

It turned out to be a pucey- green, which I don’t like, and which doesn’t go with the room. They’re in my “budoir” now. My mid-century looking plum velvet chair is in the basement, all to make room for the Christmas tree. I’ll switch it all back after Christmas, and figure out what to do with the ancestress rocker, as well.

All this talk of excess furniture and guest-worthiness is meaningless until vaccines are more widely available and enough people have taken them, sometime around the end of the third quarter of 2021.

There will be no happy guests and lively conversation this year. It’s just us, with a tree for two.

I got an email from a friend this week, bemoaning the loss of our annual holiday brunch with another friend. But we’re in it to win it, being as careful as we can. We’re hoping to be around next year for a mimosa-saturated good time.

By then, maybe this house will finally see the dinner parties with friends I had hoped to host.

Until then, I remain,

Your double-masked-with-filter-inside, hand-washing, diligently distancing,

Ridiculouswoman