Post Pandemic Bucket List – Suburb Edition

I think about ‘next summer’ a lot. Hoping each outing isn’t a contemplated decision where I need to remember every individual I came in contact with on any given day in case they need to be alerted of possible COVID exposure. I can’t wait for a time where I don’t need to justify every in-person interaction, or forget to put on my mask at daycare drop-off and hope the person behind me doesn’t think I’m wildly irresponsible when in reality, I didn’t even realize until I was in the car. These are my own insecurities, I get it. Until then, I’ll dream of my bucket list. Each item ready to be checked off, and a step toward another NeW nOrMaL. Below are a few items from my bucket list, the suburb edition.

1. Go to Chili’s: Listen, the restaurant experience is one I thoroughly enjoy. I love a new trendy spot with a menu item that is the talk of the town, a beautiful bar and fancy drinks. I’ll pay $12 for a spicy margarita, I don’t give a shit. Restaurants are mini vacations, and I’m a goddamn tourist.

However, it is the chain restaurant that welcomes me home. It is the chain restaurant that understands I’m flat broke after my voyage into the city for a culinary experience and now I’m just looking for two entrees, one kids meal, a pint of beer and the bill to be at my table before I even ask. The chain restaurant understands the parking situation necessary for a mom who thinks she’s too cool for a van, but looks at automatic sliding doors and questions the futuristic vision of the Yukon and it’s creators. The chain restaurant runs like a well oiled machine, the food is mediocre but it is consistent, and when you have a child who rather eat plain ketchup over an award winning…anything, you choose a restaurant who pours salt on some beef, cooks it, freezes it, microwaves it, and calls it an ultimate burger for $10.99.

We’ll walk inside and it will be jam packed. I’ll think to myself, who the fuck is eating at a Chili’s? I’ll walk to the host stand, “two adults, one high chair” (no clue when babies stop using high chairs, so assuming Dylan will be in a high chair? Otherwise ‘one booster seat’). The host will say that the wait is about 15 minutes, and hand me one of those buzzers. Dan and I will walk with Dylan to the bar (can babies be in the bar area?) I’ve forgotten all rules, but I will do whatever I want until I get yelled at. We’ll shuffle our way to the bar, its packed because we live in a suburb and the options are limited. 2020 is a passing thought, and I am happy to be rubbing shoulders with strange people. We get drinks, and our buzzer rings, it is in Dylan’s mouth when it starts buzzing. We hand it over to the host stand (wiped off of course, I didn’t forget everything from the pandemic) and are seated at the table. They give Dylan a paper menu and crayon’s and she goes bananas. The waiter will come up to the table, He’ll be way too excited and recite the longest list of specials, we’ll decline and he will finally begin to take our order, he’ll say, “we’ll start with MOM” and that is a moment I’ve been waiting for. Followed by “and dad,” Dan will order chicken crispers with honey mustard, and I’ll order some sort of smokehouse combo, because I’m still unsure what kind of food Chili’s specializes in. We’ll eat, pay our bill totaling $30, and on our way out see our neighbor we barely interact with in the cul de sac but feel obligated to say hello when out at a restaurant.

2. Become friends with my neighbors (i.e. the one I saw at Chili’s) : I love seeing the inside of people’s homes and during the pandemic I feel like that’s been a huge miss for me. I guess I didn’t know my neighbors pre-pandemic, but I’ll become friends with them post pandemic, I promise. We don’t live in one of those new cookie cutter neighborhoods, but we live in one of those older cookie cutter neighborhoods, and I think that’s actually more exciting. Like how have you decorated your 90s oak kitchen? I want to see who painted their oak cabinets white with silver hardware, and compare how their original windows are holding up. I want to ask questions like “is that the original deck?” and then tell you how much mine cost because I’m still appalled and also definitely bragging because ours is composite. I can’t wait until someone tells me their plans to stain their deck one weekend, and I’ll say, “oh you don’t have composite?” Like they are absolute losers! Hah! Do any of our neighbors still have accordion closet doors, because we do, and I’m looking for new ideas. I’m here for inspiration and ease. Nothing like a quick walk down the block for some small talk and a beer out of someone else’s refrigerator. We’d be hanging out on the deck, and I’d go inside to use the restroom. No need to tell me where it is, mine’s in the same spot!

3. Join community theatre: Truly, I’ve been dying to be in a play. Something about the idea of declining an invite for “rehearsal” thrills me. “Oh I’m sorry, that’s opening night and I’m ‘woman #3!’ I can’t get past the audition though and I certainly can’t sing. Not even a note, so it definitely can’t be a musical. How often is play practice for community theatre? I can only make it once, maybe twice a week if I’m the lead and, certainly, I’d be the lead. I have a lot of caveats and not much action, but I swear to god, the second the curtain is lifted on the pandemic a star will be born! Well I sure hope so anyway, it would depend on the play. Last time I looked they were doing a play called “Tina’s purple purse” (or something not even close to that but it was about a mouse and purse). My debut onto the small stage isn’t going to be a play about a mouse, I can promise you that. I’m passionate about this bucket list item but like all my passions, not passionate enough to play a talking animal (unless animated, obviously). Anyway, I’ll invite you all to opening night, we’ll have an after party at Chili’s and you can meet my new “cast” friends. We’ll have inside jokes that happened at dress rehearsal and laugh at lines we forgot and improvised. I’ll probably take myself too seriously after my foray into community theatre, but that’s showbiz.

Each day I feel closer to my post pandemic dreams. Until then, I’ll place my orders to go, wave to my neighbors as I drive by in my car, and prepare my audition monologue. Cheers to us post pandemic, it’s gonna be wild. By wild, I definitely just mean, the same as before but with hand sanitizer and a touch of gratitude for a few months at least.

The past couple of weeks.

I haven’t been writing. Well, let me rephrase that, I haven’t been writing anything worth sharing. Life has been moving on, with its fair share of funny Dan stories. I can’t remember any of them at the moment, but I’m hopeful for 2021- I think it’s gonna be hilarious (for me, at home). In the meantime, I’ll recap my past couple of weeks. Usually I wouldn’t post my time recap in blog form, but I just read a post the other day and I think the weekend recaps are more entertaining during the pandemic. Like wtf are you doing to keep yourself entertained when you can’t go anywhere. Now that is interesting. I assure you, I have no creatives ideas or ways to fill your time, just sarcastic comments about the everyday.

I had the entire week of Christmas off. It was super jam packed of activities. I had a few shows to watch and roughly three presents to wrap. Understandably, I needed to wind down so one of the nights I had two margaritas and woke up with a gnarley hangover and an absurd amount of anxiety. I decided to TaKe iT eAsY for the subsequent days that followed, didn’t want to get too overwhelmed with all my ✨cHrIsTmAs PLAnS✨

On Christmas Day, Dylan spiked a fever of 104/105. Cool cool coool. She’s fine, right? Babies just get fevers this high because they are little, right? I actually stayed pretty calm even though she was literally ON FIRE (cue jack jack from the Incredibles making himself light on fire). The next night the same thing happened, so I brought her in. The doctor tested for strep throat which was negative and did a COVID test. I brought her home, and she had a fever again but seemed, generally, fine.

Forty-eight hours after the doctor’s appointment, I get a call from Phyllis from the MN Dept of Health (MDH) doing a COVID-19 tracing call. I guess Dylan has COVID, the fever was reducing and the symptoms were subsiding. It was a blessing in disguise to receive the results after the symptoms were generally gone. I would have been a mess, otherwise. I felt anxious, guilty, frustrated, annoyed, and scared. To be fair, at this point I still hadn’t received physical results from my clinic. Just Phyllis’s word and a COVID case number sent via email from her Rose International email address. Rose International is the third party that was hired by the MDH which I found while Googling. At first glance, I was truly confused because I watch Schitts Creek and was convinced I’ve been given fake COVID results from Moira as part of an upcoming musical comedy to be performed by the Jazzagals. Anyway, after some research and the realization Moira was not involved, I went on to answer Phyllis’s tracking questions, including: Has Dylan been prison in the last 14 days?” & “Can we mark the address listed as a COVID positive address (these are my words not hers).” I asked Phyllis if my home counted as a prison? We laughed at my obvious joke, and I assured her, Dylan hasn’t been convicted of any serious crimes. I was fairly concerned about the MHD marking my home as a ‘COVID positive’ house. Would someone be arresting us? Would I get a scarlett C+ spray painted on my garage door? The ramifications of such a marking swirled in my head but Phyllis assured me it was a virtual notation for first responders should we need an ambulance. Dylan nor I has been arrested since the call, but I’ve made myself an easy target and I somehow feel like a criminal. Probably, in part, because we single handily shut down our daycare room. I hope the parents whose children are in the same room as us feel some relief as their child isn’t being bitten by my child for the time being. Not for long though, she’s coming back at full strength and she’s hasn’t seen other humans besides her parents for too long.

My husband and I are exhausted, clawing at the same walls that have so graciously kept us and others safe. Although filled with gratitude and perspective, as I build my emotional intelligence, I’ll admit this: I have my five senses (they haven’t been stripped by COVID) but I am losing my damn mind. I am extremely self aware and understand that we are quarantined for a short time period, how others are suffering immensely and I just have to stay home. I get it. But how many days in a row can I stick pipe cleaners in a water bottle and call it an activity? I guess as many as it takes Haha. Some parts of the day we’ve been thriving. Sledding, playing outside, and having dance parties. While she was sick, she even watched ten minutes of tv with me. At one point we made edible paint out of Greek yogurt and food coloring and she didn’t paint a single stroke. She shoved every last drop into her mouth or near it.

I know I won’t remember the chaos over the past couple of weeks, the anxiety I felt, the guilt, the nights she never fucking slept, the mind numbing task of reading the same book over and over, and the endless meals she threw on the floor. I’ll only remember her signing “more” after each run down our small sledding hill, the huge hugs, and the adorable giggles. She’ll ask me, “mom, was it scary when I got COVID?” And I’ll LUCKILY be able to say… “oh, a little bit but we had so much fun.”

Subconsciously, I’ll definitely remember it all though. Every step back into my home will send shivers up my spine for some time.

Five Pre-Pandemic Parenting Assumptions

Below is a brief list of Parenting Assumptions I made pre-pandemic. Well, you know what they say about people who assume...

1. I assumed parenting would involve more time out of the house. I dreamt of brunches at my favorite cafe in St. Paul, The French Hen Cafe. I’d sit and drink a mimosa, and Dylan would make a mess. I’d pretend to clean up after her hoping the server would swing by with a broom and relieve me of my duty. I’d say, “I’m so sorry about this mess” and she’d say, “not to worry” with a big smile on her face when in reality she was thinking… ‘why do people bring babies out to eat?’ We would take a family picture and post it to Instagram and everyone would think, ‘she has it TOGETHER!’ Dan and I would get into the car, and I’d look at him and say, “lets never leave the house again.”

Instead, Dan or myself prepares meals while Dylan screams.

2. I assumed we would go on vacation by now. I wanted to experience a treacherous plane ride. I wanted to regale Dylan about the first time she experienced TRUE leisure as an infant. I think fondly about the parent I thought I would be, but never got a chance to be. I had high hopes of being a mommy travel blogger. You know the one… I’d wear a monochromatic camel outfit and strut my expensive stroller through an unknown land. THAT COULD HAVE BEEN ME, COVID TOOK THAT FROM ME!

3. I assumed we’d have a giant FIRST birthday party. It was going to be a Groovy ONE theme and I’d invite all my friends. We’d wear hippie attire, and drink all night. I’d put on the invitation, “Please donate to the charity of [my] choice”, knowing that you would bring the host (me) alcohol instead. I’d stock my wine fridge, and be set for the winter.

Instead, I bought this single balloon and we ate Costco cake.

4. I assumed I could take Dylan to target without anxiety. We would stroll the aisles while she looked at the colors in awe. I’d show her the home section, and we would laugh and she would inevitably cry. Dylan would eat the cart and I wouldn’t care, because ‘germs are good and they help build an immune system.’ Women would come up to me and tell me how cute she is, they’d ask “how old?” (Such a stupid question, who cares? I always ask it too, but why?) and I’d say “she just turned one” and they’d say “is she walking?” and I would respond with “she’s wobbling” or something equally as dumb. Dylan and I would continue our expedition into the joys of consumerism as we moved on to the pajama aisle.

5. I assumed I’d be less concerned with a runny nose. I recently emailed Dylan’s pediatrician with the subject line: Runny Nose – Day 250 followed by a detailed entry of the highs and lows of the past 250 days. I remember the days of rational thought, and I think about them often. Lately, they’ve been replaced with a fear based mindset and absolute positivity we’ve contracted the virus at any sight of a minor symptom.

Instead, I send my doctor anxiety driven questions.

Here’s to many more years of making an ass out of you and me!