By MERRILL SILVER
For Montclair Local

What are you reading? Have you taken up a new hobby? Are you taking classes online, and how is that going? Montclair Local is launching “Life under lockdown,” a new column, and we want to hear from you. You can write what you’re missing (and will never take for granted), what you’re looking forward to, and anything that you think would fit the topic. Send essays of 500 words to culture@montclairlocal.news. If accepted, we’ll want a picture of you, and one that represents your essay, too.

When exactly did the coronavirus change the world? For me, the ground beneath my feet began to shift on Sunday, March 8. My husband and I canceled an open house that would introduce our three-month-old grandson from Philadelphia to our Montclair friends and family. He did come with his parents. But except for four guests, whose visits were short and staggered, and us, the house was empty.

Like two proud peacocks, we strutted our grandson around our neighborhood in his stroller. The sky was deceptively bright blue and clear. Then why was my stomach in knots? The bright sky felt gray and pregnant with clouds, like the sky before a blizzard.  We were on the precipice of something catastrophic, but we couldn’t possibly imagine what it was. So when we kissed him good-bye, we didn’t realize it would be a long time before we would rock him to sleep and tickle his soft tummy again.

By the time our second grandson was born a few days later in NYC, a tectonic plate had already shifted. Hospitals prohibited family visits, so we would need to wait a few days until we could hold this baby at home. 

COVID-19 canceled his bris and transformed his baby-naming into a virtual ceremony.  Sheltering in place, shutdown and Zoom became part of our everyday vocabulary.  March 20 was the first time his floppy head rested on our shoulders.  Who knows when the next time will be?

Sure, I miss getting acquainted with the next generation of our family. But to a certain extent, Skype and FaceTime are filling that niche. What surprises me is how much I miss the little things in my normal routine, the pleasant ones and even the tedious and annoying ones, that I used to take for granted.  

I want to smell spring in the air, as I go about my non-essential errands. I want to window-shop on Church Street, as I eat a croissant, with its flaky crumbs dotting my chin and jacket.

I’d love to say, “Hey, how about going to a movie tonight?” I remember when that was an innocuous question and not blasphemy. 

I miss driving around for 15 minutes, searching for a parking spot near the Montclair Y.  And, oh, I miss that lovely Y staff! No matter how busy the front desk gets, someone always greets you with, “Have a good workout.”  Now, I walk alone,  or six feet away from a friend, while my abs get flabby and I lose the little strength I had in my upper arms.

How did I ever take a visit to the Montclair Public Library for granted? I could spend a whole afternoon there, touching and inhaling the books, typing on the keyboard in search of a title, getting personal assistance from a reference librarian, and then checking out my stash as I chatted with a stranger.

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READ: CONNECTIONS AT MONTCLAIR PUBLIC LIBRARY

READ: COVID-19: SHOPPING SAFELY, WITH HELPING HANDS

READ: HAPPY BIRTHDAY PARTY, DESPITE COVID-19

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The supermarket lines, the bane of my existence. Instead of rolling my eyes at the customer in front of me, who can’t locate her credit card in her overflowing purse, I promise that if we ever live through the pandemic, I will wait patiently and smile at her.

I am thankful we have food, and groceries delivered. It’s just odd not deliberating over which is the perfect piece of fresh fish to buy or not being able to return to the store for one forgotten item.

I never realized how often I would meet someone for lunch or have dinner out with my husband and friends. I was so carefree about it. In retrospect, it seems like the greatest of luxuries. No one is holding court in Marcel’s comfy armchair, while eating hummus and shakshuka. Give me the opportunity to get out of the kitchen one day and I will never again complain about loud music or ambient noise in a restaurant.  

Let me walk freely in Brookdale Park and I won’t say a word about the bicyclists swerving down the wrong path and the cars exceeding the speed limit.  

When will I be delayed on a NJ Transit train to New York and hustle through the crowds at Penn Station? When will a Broadway show, a concert, and dinner at a neighborhood restaurant be my reward?

I miss taking off my shoes and emptying my pockets on the security line before boarding a plane. A plane! How did we ever squeeze ourselves into a row of seats with strangers?

It seems extraordinary that a few weeks ago, I could take for granted that I could ring my friend’s doorbell and relax at her kitchen table. How could we have known what a blessing that was? 

A recent birthday party car parade, where we honked horns, blasted “Happy Birthday” from smart phones and waved signs from the moon roof, was so beautiful it made me cry. Yet, with all the fanfare, I waxed nostalgic for the old-fashioned birthday party, the homemade cake with the trick candles and the birthday hugs. The kind of party where we all were in the same room or backyard.

It is the absence of hugs that will be my downfall, as we weather this storm. Zoom meetings have their advantages and I appreciate how they have united us. As I participate in them, I am reminded of Woody Allen’s movie, “The Purple Rose of Cairo.”  In it, the lonely waitress sits in the movie theater.  Suddenly, the handsome leading man in the movie walks off the screen and into her life. I count the days until my family and friends on Zoom leave the computer screen and walk back into my life. I hope I’ll remember how to hug because I have a lot of catching up to do with my grandsons.

granted
Spending time with the baby: not something to take for granted. COURTESY MERRILL SILVER
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