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We're venturing out

For more than a year, we’ve stayed a safe distance from everybody else, worn facemasks, followed guidelines, and scanned the horizon for the specks of approaching vaccines. 

When vaccines arrived, we older ones got in line; but our daughter, like so many daughters, impatient to see us inoculated (and also, perhaps, impatient to have loving and protected grandchild-caregivers again) jumped on the internet and found us appointments an hour away, on different days. Four separate times, my husband and I traveled to a grocery store pharmacy. But the pharmacists were friendly and professional, and in due course we were heading home for the last time. 

The shots were offered to more age groups, and our grown children presented their own arms. After celebrating spring birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring birthdays again in creative outdoor ways, we could finally go inside our various homes. 

My husband and I invited each of our three grandchildren to spend the night, one at a time. Our eight-year-old grandson settled in with LEGOs, and when I wasn’t being his parts manager and general assistant, I read aloud Barbara Park’s Skinnybones. I'd read this book to his mama and aunt when they were children, and I often couldn’t get out the words for laughing. Park’s death in 2013 felt like a personal loss.  

My younger grandson visited next. His first priority was to visit every room in our house--and no wonder, since he hadn’t been inside for two birthdays--and his second priority was my bags of books, which we read snuggled together on the couch. We had read many a book over the pandemic year on our back porch bench, on blankets in his backyard, and at various metro park picnic tables, but indoor couch time was a cozy luxury. Our one regret was that I "only" had twenty-six books to share. 

During my eight-year-old granddaughter’s overnight, she dug into the shopping bag full of cardboard, greeting cards, mailing stickers, old magazines, and other flotsam we save for this girl because crafts are her passion. While she created, I read Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. My granddaughter shares a name with one of Ivan’s human friends, which made the story of the captive silverback gorilla all the better. 

Since then, “normal life” occasions have been multiplying. My husband and I took our older grandson to his soccer game one evening. We returned him at dinnertime, and I was persuaded to read while the boys ate. (If they hadn’t asked for books, I might have had to insist on them.) I read Betty Bunny Wants a Goal, one of Michael B. Kaplan’s Betty Bunny books, and ideal since it’s about soccer. As a chaser, we hooted our way through Antoinette Portis’s Best Frints at Skrool, follow-up to her Best Frints in the Whole Universe. I only hope Portis writes another book about Yelfred and Omek, "best frints since they were little blobbies," before my grandblobbies outgrow the books altogether. 

The icing on this family-reading cake was a photo the boys’ mama texted this week. Earlier that day, she had visited with our five-year-old grandson, who brought along a jar of dry roasted peanuts. He didn’t want to share the peanuts; he wanted to share the news that he had seen the jar in the family’s pantry and spontaneously had read the words “dry roasted peanuts.” The jar was evidence, and he proudly read the words again. 

Back to the texted photo. It was dark, almost unidentifiable, because it had been taken furtively. “Caught with books after lights out!” our daughter wrote. It was a milestone to be celebrated, and a glorious end to an unusual pandemic year. 

Margo Bartlett
Margo Bartlett
Margo Bartlett wrote, copy-edited, and proofread for newspapers for nearly thirty years and currently does occasional freelance writing and editing. She previously worked for a school book fair company, which offered her the chance to catch up on children’s and YA literature, her favorite genres.

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