This is a story about how in the middle, (I wish), of this endless pandemic, when retrieving the mail ten feet from my front door is an exciting activity, I had an unexpected experience.
First, I have to admit you can tell what kind of pandemic day I am having by observing how I look when I visit my mailbox.
Some days, when I am desperately combatting boredom and loneliness, I don’t go out to my mailbox unless I have first brushed my hair and applied lip gloss. I make sure I am wearing actual pants. Even though I live on a cul-de-sac, and my small five-house neighborhood is not well populated, I need to be ready if one of my five neighbors comes out to pick up their mail at the exact same time.
After all, if I am going to randomly see the only outside person I will come into contact with this week at my mailbox, shouldn’t I be wearing earrings?
At the beginning of this lockdown, I had a weird bout of activity where I kept shopping on line for clothes. After all it was spring, and Texas summer was following along. So, I shopped. Even though it was obvious I would have nowhere to go and nothing to do, I still shopped.
I bought things I would never even wear in my usual life. I bought a maxi-dress.
As an adult, I have never worn a maxi-dress. The last time I had such an item was for my sixteenth birthday party. I loved that dress – it had a kind of lace up the front wench feeling about it. When I was sixteen I thought it was cool to feel like a wench. Well, I’m not sixteen anymore, and I definitely don’t ever feel like a wench. Nor do I aspire to feeling wench-like, but I bought a maxi-dress anyway.
I thought, oh, this will be fun to wear with sandals when I go to the movies on a Saturday night. I could enjoy the feeling of the material sliding across my summer tanned legs. Maybe I would even be motivated to paint my toenails.
What was I thinking?
I was imagining a life without masks and distance and isolation.
I still have days like that. The dress is hanging in my closet with the tags still on. I no longer imagine wearing it to the movies, or out to dinner. But perhaps on a day when I’m feeling optimistic I can wear it outside to my mailbox.
If it looks good, I can even linger out there letting the summer breeze waft the fabric playfully around my ankles and work at looking cavalier while twirling my face mask around on one hand. After all, if anyone is going to see me, I need to be mask-less so my lip gloss and earrings are evident.
Of course, most days, I retrieve my mail in whatever I happen to be wearing – sweatpants or running tights and thousand year old clogs. And don’t even talk to me about what my hair is doing. It seems to be living its own pandemic life, and while my own life may be flat, my hair’s life is at least lively.
But, this Wednesday, I took a walk with my Rabbi. She was walking around our zip code visiting congregants.
I participated in this activity because it reminded me I was still part of a larger community. Even if it is a community in which I am almost entirely invisible.
This Rabbi has been at my synagogue for six years. I guess I have stepped foot into the building four times during her tenure.
I did not wear my new maxi-dress for our walk. I went for an honest portrayal of my pandemic self in running tights and huge tee shirt. She was in her own running tights, a smaller tee shirt and a mask with a smile painted on the front.
I told her how much I appreciated her including me on her walkabout.
I admitted I was a very absent synagogue member and gently informed her that the two of us have never had a conversation. I told her I was not really observant. She still seemed happy to walk and chat.
It was nice.
It reminded me there are people out there. She reminded me there are communities out there. Places for all of us to belong.
Maybe if she comes by again I’ll wear lip gloss and earrings under my own face mask. Maybe I’ll even wear my new dress.