I really miss being around people in places.
I should probably be more specific here, as I don’t necessarily miss things like waiting in the slowpoke line at the Speedway to pay for my gas at the counter because the credit card reader at the pump broke. Or maybe I do? Now that I think about it, I do have some nostalgia for wandering through a convenience mart to find a perfect savory snack for the next leg of a road trip. There’s some magic in asking the cashier for the key to their disgusting bathroom, because we’ve been driving through cornfields for four hours, anxiously anticipating the arrival to our spring break destination.
(We missed spring break this year. And at the rate that we’re going weather-wise up here in northern Illinois, we might be missing spring all together. Horray for 2020.)
But I really do miss the electric bustle of my local spots, like where I normally pick up my coffee on the way to work. They finally knew my name. Getting local shopkeepers to know me by name became this badge of honor over the last few years. We moved around a lot before we bought this house, so putting down roots in one town and being on a first-name basis with business owners became a symbol of belonging and familiarity.
I hope the coffee shop owners remember my name when I finally return. I hope they’re still there when I return.
I miss my office. I miss the security guard in the lobby who never smiles but nods an acknowledgment as I clickity clack by in my heels with my coffee and my scuffed badge. I miss the mechanical sounds of printers printing papers, of hundreds of fingers pounding out emails, of coffee mugs reheating in the microwave. I miss the smell of the greasy eggs in the cafeteria. Sally, who works behind the counter, has been serving delightfully greasy eggs in that cafeteria for over 20 years. I wonder what she’s doing during this quarantine.
Is her husband making her delightfully greasy eggs so she can finally rest her feet? I hope so.
I miss wandering around the mall on the first warm afternoon of the season. I miss drifting in and out of stores that have propped open their doors to let the spring breeze in. The higher end stores light fragrant candles on lacquer shelves. I can’t afford stuff in stores that light candles on lacquer shelves, but it’s fun to chat with the shop girls and eavesdrop on old rich ladies stocking up on embroidered tunics. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually miss wearing blouses. You know, legit blouses, with buttons and pretty detailing and low stretch tailoring.
I’m scared to put on anything “low stretch” these days. The tailoring will most certainly tug and pucker after weeks of mindless snacking. I’m going to give myself some grace on that.
I miss getting a text from my sister at the end of a long work day. “Do you happen to be nearby? Want to grab a beer?” We live on opposite ends of the same town, and we’ll quickly pick a midpoint spot where we can grab a pint and vent before heading home to our families. I miss hopping onto the stool as the bartender wipes down the counter and slides a happy hour menu in front of me. I miss our perfectly synched exhalations before our glasses clink. I even miss the intrusive interjections of the drunk old guys who are on their umpteenth round of Old Style tall boys, watching Jeopardy and complaining about their wives.
I wonder what those guys are doing with their afternoons now. Probably drinking tall boys, watching Jeopardy, and still complaining about their wives – or, rather, TO their wives.
I miss date nights with my husband. I miss the familiar laugh of our favorite server and splitting a ½ price bottle at a quiet corner table, talking about our kids as if we didn’t just see them 15 minutes ago when we dropped them off at their grandparents’. (We don’t drop them off anywhere now. They’re always… right here.) I miss grabbing a night cap after the perfect dinner, and spending an hour in a musty dive bar, people watching. I miss making mental notes of their odd idiosyncrasies, as they conduct their sloppy mating rituals like peacocks in heat.
I miss picking our kids up from their grandparents’ and honking the horn as we pull out of the driveway. I miss waving bye to my parents as they stand in the front window in their pajamas – waving bye until next weekend, when we’ll meet for church or coffee or to take a walk around the downtown market, just to get some more quality time in.
I miss the kids’ teachers. I miss the other parents from the bus stop. I miss watching the little kids run up and down the sidewalk, playing tag as they wait for Ms. Mary to pull up in that big yellow bus as she does every morning at 8:00. I miss watching them stumble up the bus steps like little turtles, their gigantic backpacks spanning from neck to knee.
I miss asking them what they did at school today. I already know what they did at school today. They basically taught themselves math because I have never heard the term “number bond” before. Sorry, guys.
I miss the band concerts and play dates and impromptu nights out with friends and the leisurely errands on Saturday afternoons. I miss the chaos of rushing to karate class and music lessons, and texting people that I’ll be there soon when I haven’t even left my house yet.
I miss leaving my house.
I know, with time, this too shall pass. But I still miss the things that time has already passed over, those moments that we’ll never get back.
But mostly, I just really miss being around people in places.