“It’s the new normal,” people say on television, the radio, and in seemingly every conversation I hear or engage in.  “The old normal is gone with the wind and will never come back again in this lifetime.  Mark my words.  COVID-19 came along and brought us this normal, whether we like it or not.”

Well, as for me, I don’t like it—not one jot or tilde. The year 2020 has lasted about a lifetime so far, and it’s barely September. I’m ready for a vaccine for this horrendous virus, which I’ve already suffered through, but they tell me I could get it again.  Nobody knows for sure.  They say it could mutate into some other monster, but they don’t know.  I’ve noticed that THEY don’t know much about COVID-19.  I, however, know for certain that I don’t want it again. 

I love my husband and my dogs, but I’ve spent an inordinate number of hours with them this year. Larry and I have discussed every subject known to man about four or five times and are close to solving the world’s problems, except COVID-19, that is.  No ideas there. The dogs have become accustomed to having us home all the time; if I start to leave, they gather around me with those big worried eyes that ask, “You’re not really leaving us, are you?”  

I don’t want to wear my mask to the grocery store and come right back, but I do.  I don’t want to visit with my doctor on the phone about my kidney stone; I’d prefer to look into his eyes and ask, “You have powerful drugs for this pain, right?”  I don’t want to drive by the restaurants and see the signs saying, “Take out only.”  

Let me tell you what I really want. When Sunday morning rolls around, I want to shower and dress up without a mask for church.  It matters not that I have masks in 4 or 5 different colors to coordinate with my clothes; I don’t want them.  I’ll even put on makeup which I haven’t worn since March.  And when I get to church, I don’t want any part of social distancing.  I want to sit beside my friends, our shoulders touching, as we sing “The King is Coming” while David leads us.  Then as the sermon begins, I’ll lose myself in God’s holy word and find much-needed spiritual refreshment. 

On Monday morning, I want to once again dress up—not a lot—and meet my bridge playing cronies at B&F for lunch, followed by a rousing game of bridge.  Over fried tilapia and squash, we’ll talk about anything and everything—local politics and national; what’s new in town; which teachers are retiring.  Our waitress brings big pitchers of sweet tea and coke to our tables; she also keeps a mop handy for our frequent spills.   

On Tuesday, perhaps I’ll go interview some folks in person instead of on the phone.  I want to see their facial expressions as we talk, be they smiles or frowns.  A better sense of personality comes to me when we sit face to face; when I’m back sitting at my computer to write the article, my subjects are still there in my head.  As my fingers fly over the keyboard, they come to life on the computer screen and soon will on the pages of the News-Banner.  The personal element makes me a better writer and puts life on my pages.

On Wednesday, I want to go to the grocery store without that mask hampering my breathing.  Let me once more smile and receive smiles instead of hurrying by some masked person whom I don’t recognize.  Maybe some friend and I will stop and chat for a minute about the old days when our boys were in Cub Scouts together, remembering the family campouts, the weekly meetings and the parades.  What fun!  Back before the new normal set in.  Back before COVID-19 took a plane from China and disembarked in New York’s busiest airport.  

How I long for the days before masks and the days of visiting with my friends, when we could run out for lunch on a whim or gather in Elaine’s living room for a quick game of bridge.  Lord, may those days return to us, if it be thy will, but most of all, I ask that you place your mighty hand on those sick with COVID-19 right now and heal their bodies. Amen.