This was quite a week of since-the-pandemic-began firsts!
Obviously it’s not the first time I’ve eve done these things, but I like the idea of starting the count over at zero. I’ve been saying that I don’t want to take this re-opening of life for granted, knowing that eventually I will adapt, and everything will feel normal again. Keeping track of these firsts seems like a good way to stave that off.
The graduation party was our first large party of any kind in at least a year and half. We’ve missed attending weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, graduations, housewarmings, farewells, and plenty of regular old hangouts. Being from a large family that loves getting together for all sorts of occasions, it has felt very strange to go so long without any of these events.
That’s why this party was so cool. It wasn’t for anyone in my family—it was for the pharmacy resident that Ashley is mentoring—but it felt like it could have been. She has a large extended family just like mine, and there were members of all ages, several of whom had flown in from around the country. Everyone was grateful that they could finally celebrate a major life event in person again. Even though I wasn’t with my family, I felt like I was with family, and that was a gift.
It was really the “L” trip, a seemingly simple thing, that made me feel like maybe we’ve turned a corner. I still remember very well the last time I rode it: it was March 12, 2020, the day after the NBA shut down. I had a doctor’s appointment in the Loop, and my routine on days like that was to take the Red Line downtown and work from my favorite coffee shop across from the Harold Washington Library.
There was the normal amount of traffic and activity on the train and in the streets, but everyone was on edge. I had the sense that I probably shouldn’t be down there, and that this might be my last trip into the city for a while. At the time, of course, I thought “a while” probably meant a few weeks.
During the height of the pandemic, I decided that taking the “L” wasn’t a necessary risk, since I’m lucky and don’t have to travel anywhere for my job, and we live a couple blocks from a pair of grocery stores. But it was always one of the things I missed the most. When asked, I usually tell people it’s my favorite thing about living in Chicago. And I would think that was kind of a silly answer—that is, until I couldn’t take the “L” anymore.
Coming home from the White Sox game, a 45-minute ride north on the Red Line, it all made sense to me. Trains of any kind are massively, undeniably cool. But there’s nothing like being on a train with a bunch of your fellow citizens who are all heading home after a night out, in ones and two and threes and more, some sitting quietly with their eyes closed or staring out the window, some locked in intimate conversation, some bouncing all around the car.
We’re all in different places in life, and we’re all heading to different destinations. For this moment, though, we all share something beautiful.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Please take care, write back if you can, and I’ll see you next week.