I saw an Instagram post on a friend’s feed this morning. It was of her little girl dancing around in her dad’s tee shirt, and it brought back a wave of memories I hadn’t thought about in over 25 years.
When I was a little girl living on Long Island, we would visit my grandparents, who just lived a town over. We would go every Sunday for a big Italian dinner. As I sit here on my couch, I closed my eyes, and I take a deep breath; I can smell all the aromas coming from my grandmother’s kitchen. The smell of sauce simmering on the stove. The smell of meatballs frying. My two sisters and I would run into their house, down the hallway that led straight to the kitchen and hug my grandpa, who was always sitting in his chair at the kitchen table. We would then run to my grandmother, who was always standing at the stove. She was either stirring that huge pot of sauce or frying the meatballs. She would hug us back and pull three baby meatballs off the plate that she saved just for us. We would pop those baby meatballs in our mouth right away, ignoring her words, “careful girls, they are still hot!” I burned my tongue more than once, but I remember thinking, nothing in the world tasted as good as that baby meatball.
Those Sundays were some of the happiest days of the week for me. Growing up in a chaotic house, to say the least, when I walked into my grandparent’s house, I could immediately feel a sense of calm wash over my body. Nobody makes a better pot of sauce like my grandmother, and no one was an expert at sneaking us candy like my grandfather. They are memories I will always cherish. But one memory that was almost erased from my aging mind was the very rare time we got to spend the night at their house. It didn’t happen often, and I don’t even know if my two other sisters and I stayed all at the same time. But what I do remember was the smell of my grandfathers Listerine (the yellow kind, because yes, I was born before the minty fresh kind), sleeping in my aunt’s bedroom feeling like a grown-up in her double bed versus my twin bed at home, and because this was usually a spur of the moment event, my grandmother getting one of my grandfather’s white v-neck undershirt to wear as pajamas. I remember dancing around their kitchen in that undershirt that came down to my ankles, feeling like an angel. Taking a minute to remember my childhood, I can honestly say those nights were by far the best memories I have, and I am thankful that one little Instagram story reminded me of it all.
As we come to the year anniversary of this Covid disaster, I find myself sitting on my couch feeling all the feelings. I am half vaccinated, my daughter and her girlfriend, both of whom are teachers, are finally fully vaccinated, my brother and his wife are fully vaccinated. One of those two sisters is also fully vaccinated. As the nurse administered my vaccine, I didn’t really hear anything she said, I just looked around the old Sears Automotive shop where I drove through and all the National Guard directing traffic, and I thought, maybe, just maybe, this is how we get back to normal. I can honestly say I underestimated the feelings I had when I got that first dose, and as I sat in the 15-minute waiting area, I cried. I cried for all that was lost this past year, the people, the jobs, the sense of normal. But I also cried for the future. A future where we can return to some sort of normal.
I can’t wait to see my kids without a mask, up close, and see their smiles, and hug them tight. When I think about that scene, it gives me as much joy as I had as a little girl dancing around my grandparent’s kitchen in my grandfather’s undershirt.
So please wear a mask, get your vaccine as soon as you’re eligible, and then when the time comes, find the joy!