Who was that masked family?

(Those of a certain age will recognize the oft-used [almost] phrase from “The Lone Ranger.” The pleasures of old age are small; one takes them as one can.)

Youngers will remember wearing masks and distancing for the pandemic, though. And I ain’t gonna skip it. Too much science background, too much epidemiology knowledge, too noisy an Inner EMT.

Except for a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t seen the localish kids or grandkids in nearly six months (and hardly anyone else, except by Zoom), so we made plans for me to drive down and spend a day with them, masked and distanced, and they went six miles above and beyond to accommodate both my paranoia and my three high-risk categories.

It was a lovely day… and the first thing we did was break the rules. I hugged my son. I hugged my grandkids. I would have hugged my DIL, but she was upstairs and then she was busy in the kitchen, so that waited ’til later. I did it again, throughout the day. Six months with no human contact, and no creature—mammalian, amphibian, avian, reptilian, or even piscean—to share the living space… that’s just too much. I mean, Zoom is great, but it’s not tactile, and you can’t hear it breathe or eat.

Most of us, clockwise from top left: Me, Snaotheus, Chilkat, Chilkoot, Mr. Bean Man, and KrisDi behind the camera.

The kids caught me up on how the end of school went for them in isolation. They miss their friends, but at least have a “day camp” program for summer that incorporates masks and distancing (and monitoring for both). Chilkoot read me stories he wrote; Chilkat read me some of her things. Both of them read those terrible little-kid pun jokes to all of us, the ones that are so corny you have to laugh, and I was a little (only a little) surprised to find that a fair few of them are the same jokes my generation used at that age!

KrisDi did herself proud, as usual, with green chicken tikka, and for dinner (I got to stay later than usual because summer = more light) we had kung pao chicken. Delicious, and so much better than the non-cooking I’ve been doing.

After lunch, the kids showed me they can now ride their bikes without training wheels (!!!), though Chilkat is still convinced that turning around is hard, so she’s reluctant to try it. She’ll get there. Chilkoot, on the other pedal, is starting to branch out into tricks (like sticking his legs out). It was fun watching them race madly up and down the street, and then go crashing into the curb to get away if a car showed up.

Chilkoot told me about his upcoming birthday party–he is now seven–and seemed pleased with the Mr. Bean Man stuffie he asked for. Well, he asked for a Mr. Bean Man toy and that was all I could come up with on short notice!

I helped pull some weeds in the front—like me, the Snaotheuses live right next to a protected area, so their fence is hard up against punishingly thick undergrowth (in their case, mostly wild roses). I did discover what stinging nettles look like—I’d run into them last year when doing the same thing, but the word “nettle” hadn’t been in my working vocabulary for several years so I didn’t think of it. Them buggers hurt. But now I know what they look like.

We watched a movie inside (the newest Troll one) and later Chilkat wanted to play with me a game that she’d invented. I’m not sure what its point was, but it involved a lot of hugging if certain things happened, so who was going to complain?

Snaotheus, their dad, has a beard big enough (and red enough—I’m so sorry for saddling you with those genes, son) to shame any mountain man and I haven’t seen his hair this long in decades. We shared a Pliny the Elder (yum!) and a couple of other beers from his extensive collection. We chattered. We all watched kids. We just sat and we wandered around together.

Like any family. On any ordinary day. Except that it wasn’t ordinary, because… well, masks and distancing. I hope by this time next year we can do it without those precautions. We shall see.

Posted by wordsmith

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