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.