I felt the pain creep into my hips and back. In the afternoon, finding a quiet moment, I lay down on the wall-to-wall beige carpet in our living room prepared to pull this leg and that against my chest, so many seconds at a time, following the instructions from a physical therapist.
Right leg. Left leg. I hear a squeal behind me.
A light-weight stomping of hand after knee pitter-patters its way across the room. Before I know it, the infant has come for me. I brace myself, pull my hair into protective position and prepare to engage.
She goes first for the hair, as I anticipated. I win that round. But then, the little heathen strikes for my face. My forearms shield me. Opening my eyes, I see her press her face between my arms, seeking to worm her way through my fortress where she can lick or bite my nose or do whatever it is a ten-month-old wants to do to her mother in this vulnerable and reduced position.
She shrieks with glee.
I shriek with fright knowing I am done for.
I call for help to those idle witnesses who think, “maybe someone else will help that lady,” and watch from across the room, pretending to do their school work.
“Help me! Help me!” I cry. Now, the baby is on top of me, pressing that chubby face down into my personal bubble.
They rush to my side, finally, but it is too late. She weasels through. She slimes me.
Her droplets smear across my cheek. It is finished.
I crawl out from under her power to wipe away the aftermath of the spit-sport. Even I have my limits.
Face to face. Droplets. Close proximity. Physical contact.
We do not just miss the old way of living because we are anxious for the crisis to end, impatient to the waiting to be over, exhausted by the grip of fear, or frustrated by the yo-yo of moving tier to tier.
We want to return to normal because, in the effort to be safe, we have sacrificed good, normal things that are part of being human. Seeing each other face to face, standing in close proximity, eating together. Those uniquely human things are the building blocks of relationships. Those relationships form families and friendships. The proximity of these little societies builds community. All this is part of the core of our being human.
And we put it on hold while experts searched for answers.
But I am afraid for the future. I fear for those already struggling with depression, loneliness and isolation as Thanksgiving passes and an already chilly winter sets deeper in when we know those already prone to it are likely to experience a rougher time around “the holidays.”
I am afraid of what will happen if we do not find creative ways to reach out to each other, those we know and those we do not know, the neighbor who is my friend or the neighbor I would never know because of our differences if it weren’t for the fact that we are neighbors.
I fear we are going to lose something better than our physical health, something that was built, not just by my effort or the effort of those I am in relationship with, but built by the many persons and many relationships that collaborate to form this community.
Therefore, I want to make an extra effort to find those ways, ways that are not illegal or prohibited right now, to attempt to hold community together, to hold onto what was built before me and what I pray will come after me.
They did it with the Hughson Community Thanksgiving Dinner, feeding 570 bodies with turkey and stuffing.
They are doing it again with Christmas baskets. I cannot be one of the 12 volunteers in their reduced-size group, but I can make a flyer to promote the Toy Drive on December 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hughson United Methodist Church.
I can say to you that turning outward through service is a protective factor against depression. I can tell you that working together towards a common goal helps to heal division. I can ask you to please, even amid sheltering-in-place, following whatever protocols come out this week and next, that there are still things we can do, not just to feel normal, but to feel human again.