Re-Learning How to Be Social
Taking back my social life after the pandemic
Today I attended the Memorial Day Service for my hometown, Atlanta, Illinois. It’s a small town of about 1,600 people. They’re gaining a following as it’s right on Route 66.
The flags lined up the streets with each veteran's name stitched upon them from the town. I had two deceased grandfathers, each on a flag, along with a deceased uncle.
I have memories of helping take those flags down in the rain when I was about 17 years old. It’s a beautiful sight to behold but a careful chore to take them all down.
The town is full of many older people who’ve always lived or grown up there. My parents and grandparents being part of those generations.
I saw people I hadn’t seen since I was a child. I met new people my mom knew from her high school. I noticed people in the distance from the church I grew up in.
It was as if the world were normal again; everything was right back to the way it was before. Before “COVID times.”
The service was outside, so of course, no one was wearing masks. Most of the town is vaccinated. It’s mixed, but even the older residents that don’t believe in the shot are getting it “just to be safe.”
I couldn’t help but notice how awkward it was talking to some of these people that I’d known my whole life.
My old pastor and mentor seemed not to know what to talk about with me, so we talked about all my tattoos.
It was plain odd. I felt like I couldn’t talk to him the way I used to.
I’ve been stuck inside for so long that I’ve lost my sense of socialization. Was it awkward for him too? I couldn’t help but wonder as he walked away. He was responsible for taking down all the stage equipment used for the service.
I spoke with a teacher I had in cosmetology school. I see her from time to time when I adventure to the town. She lives near my grandparents and walks a lot around town. She looked the same, except for letting her hair color grow out into her natural grey. She still did her makeup so precisely and attractively.
In my social awkwardness, I said that my sister and I spotted her as soon as we walked up to the library where she stood. I told her what I said to my sister as we walked near her. “There’s Mrs. M; we better go talk to her.”
My teacher took it as me saying, “Ugh, there’s that lady. I guess we should go talk to her even though we don’t want to.” I truly didn’t mean it that way. It was just the way it happened to come out in a certain tone.
So even though my immediate reactions to words come out a certain way, I need to think before speaking. Sometimes I don’t think my brain and my mouth communicate well with each other.
Am I that much of a homebody that I don’t know how to socialize with people I’ve known my whole life? Has COVID really affected me to the point where I can’t get out and be myself? Who am I? Do I even know anymore?
It’s all so confusing when it comes down to it.
The Memorial Day Service was beautiful, honoring all the town’s veterans from WWII to militants still active around 2010. They did the usual “taps” shots to honor those veterans who’ve passed.
A young girl recited Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation,” was heard through the speakers. A beautiful speech that is spoken by a youngster every year at the service.
It was just another normal holiday celebration in town, minus the sausage and pancake breakfast that morning and the afternoon's chicken sandwich lunches.
The breakfast and lunch are what really bring the town together. I see so many family members there when we do have it. We’ll sit down to eat our breakfast, and some distant family will plop down next to us, not knowing where else to sit. Then after we eat, we jump around from table to table, finding more people we know to socialize with.
Usually, during this time, I can be myself and really talk to these people I’ve known forever, but this year we weren’t able to do that. Which I found to be a bit sad.
Apparently, due to COVID, it was decided by the board not to have these two things. It was still a great ceremony with the local band playing all things patriotic and ending in a beautiful prayer for all our military. We even had a local sing the National Anthem. “Oh, say can you see…” Man, could she hit those high notes!
We missed the clogging class from Audra’s Dance Studio this year, but here’s hoping they’ll return next year. It’s always fun to watch and listen to them clog. When I was younger, I always wanted to be one of the cloggers at the Memorial Day celebration, but it never happened.
Still, there weren’t many people present at the event. I should be surprised, but I wasn’t considering how they only had the service. The mornings are usually packed at the firehouse for the sausage and pancake breakfast at least.
I just can’t seem to get over how weird it felt. It was as if I felt everyone should be wearing their masks still. No one, and I mean NO ONE, was wearing a mask today. It’s just a scary thought now. You go out somewhere without a mask, and there’s still the lingering fear that you could catch this terrible virus.
It’s interesting to see how they react to the mask debate in a small town compared to the city I live in 15 minutes away, where there are still many people wearing masks every day.
So restrictions have been lifted, and those vaccinated here don’t have to wear masks in almost all places. How has not wearing a mask affected your comfort level? Were you like me and hid behind your face covering like a shield, or was it just something you wore because you had to?
We all have opinions on this, but I think we can all agree, we see the world somewhat going back to normal, and it’s a beautiful thing.