It's been a long time since the public has been allowed outside freely. No masks. No regulated distancing. No worrying about every little sniffle or tickle in your throat. Finally, restrictions are eased and regulations lifted.
Go explore! You'd moved home during the interim to help your mom look after Grandma. She's the one who poo-pooed the social distancing the most. There's still time before work starts calling staff back, and you weren't considered "essential staff."
But hey. The lady lived through the polio epidemic, Spanish flu, Asian flu, AIDS pandemic, Swine Flu, Ebola, Zika... "There will always be something," she says.
"We have to learn to adapt, not stall and sit fearfully in our homes."
Still, you can't help but worry when watching the nightly news with her; everything is about updated body counts. If it's not disease, it's domestic violence or hit-and-runs or mass shootings. It's the newest of the new normal, and you don't like it.
Being allowed to leave the house for no reason other than going for a walk is a bit of a welcomed distraction, though.
Your childhood home is off by itself, surrounded by trees you used to climb and a pond you used to catch frogs in.
The driveway is just tracks worn by tires, like an inverted railroad, and curves around the house, ending abruptly at a standalone wooden fence with a weather-worn sign: DO NOT CLIMB THE RAIL. You've always wondered who made that sign. Grandma says it was there when Grandpa built the house.
No neighbors for miles. No traffic noise. No paying for street parking. No reliable cell phone service, which is a real bummer.
The mystical magic you used to see in your surroundings is long gone, but maybe after being away for so long and indoors before that, you can rediscover that feeling again.
Kissing Grandma goodbye, you notice how much shorter she is. How much softer. She pats your waist and reminds you to not the climb the old rail behind the house.
You don't roll your eyes, but you can't help but sigh at the warning you've heard your whole life. Grandma's superstitious; it's something she brought with her from her homeland.
Don't cradle a baby's carriage or the devil will settle in it.
Don't cradle a baby's carriage or the devil will settle in it. Seeing your own shadow on the wall without its head means your death.
"I won't, Grandma. See you later."
It rained recently, a warm spring rain, so you pull on your mom's old rain boots and stomp in every puddle on the porch. Ducks and geese have claimed the pond as their nursery. Fluffy chicks chirp and waddle after their parents, somehow knowing who's who on instinct. They all look the same to you.
New mushrooms have sprouted up from the constant dampness. Flowers stand as tall as they can with the weight of their open blossoms and rain drops. You had planted them a couple years ago, for Mother's Day.
Around the side of the house is an old chainlink dog kennel. You're allergic to dogs, but you still wanted one for as long as you can remember. Now, it's used to house chickens. Mom is waiting on a brood of new chicks she ordered.
The tire ruts are filled with water that you slosh in until you nearly lose a boot to the mud. Catching yourself on the wooden rail, you free yourself and sit on it to try and kick some of the caked mud off. It's a fruitless effort, so you spin around to continue on your walk.
Hopping off the fence, your feet touch the grass and pass through the circle of white mushrooms.
Hopping off the fence, your feet touch the grass and pass through the circle of white mushrooms. Dirt folds and compacts around you, holding you fast and filling your nose and ears until you can't breathe.
Grandma was right. You shouldn't have sat on the railing.
Grandma was right. You shouldn't have sat on the railing. Social distancing, six feet.