I never thought I’d see the day when the prospect of taking a drive to Portland would generate excitement.

But that has come to pass, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the things it has taught us is how precious are the simple things we take for granted.

This thought came to me when I asked my sister if she had a good birthday.

She traveled to Portland, got takeout food and splurged at a kitchen store using a gift card she got for her birthday.

What an exciting foray, I thought, admittedly with a sense of longing to do the same.

It has been nearly a year since we have eaten in a restaurant, taken a long drive to another town or state, patronized the theater or symphony, stayed overnight in a hotel or shopped just for the heck of it.

The upside, I suppose, is that my checkbook balance is plumper, there’s less wear and tear on my vehicle and I fill the gas tank less often.

My birthday in March will be the second during which I will not have celebrated with family and friends because of the pandemic — and I am always one to love a birthday party. We did host an outdoor, socially distanced and masked birthday gathering for my sister in our snowy backyard last weekend, attended by my two other sisters, one of whom baked a delicious cheesecake topped with strawberries. There was the opening of gifts, sipping of hot drinks and lively banter during the hour-long visit.

We laughed at how bizarre it was to celebrate a birthday while bundled up in winter attire, including ski pants.

Imagine what it will be like to gather as we used to do, without fear of getting sick. How will any of us who lived through the pandemic not recognize how fortunate that is?

I remember my parents and grandmothers recounting all the things people couldn’t do, eat, buy or see during the Great Depression. Many lost jobs and were poor. As a result, they rarely threw anything away because they might need it one day — a practice we Baby Boomers found amusing.

But our elders operated with caution because they endured tough times. They remembered the past. So too will we, I think, once we emerge from the pandemic.

One day, we’ll look back on this strange time, when we hurried through the grocery store, masked and hoping not to see anyone we knew so we wouldn’t have to stop and chat. We’ll remember what it was like, spending most of our time at home.

That will have included being relegated to working at home — at least for those of us lucky enough to have kept our jobs.

We became acclimated to our homes and found comfort in activities like being able to throw a meal in the oven and go back to work, or take a brief walk outside. It reminds me of the simplicity with which we lived our lives as children.

We didn’t travel a lot and a trip to the ocean was a treat. We shopped when we needed something — we didn’t do it just for fun. Instead of buying more stuff, we took care of what we had. Going to the movies or drive-in was an infrequent and thus, thrilling occurrence. We created our own excitement, year-round. We scoured the woods and fields in summer and skied, tobogganed and skated in winter. When the weather was bad, we stayed in and read books.

Living in this pandemic reminds me frequently of  William Wordsworth’s sonnet, “The World is Too Much With Us,” published in 1807 and often cited aloud by my late father:

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

More than two hundred years later, Wordsworth’s words still ring true.

As horrid as this pandemic is, it has taught us about what really matters.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 32 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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