I meet myself in the living room. I am unshowered, dressed in yoga pants, a comfy sweatshirt, and slippers, my long, graying hair pulled back in a ponytail. I sit down on the couch and place a mug of coffee on the table next to me.
PreCOVID JOY: Thanks for meeting me here today.
COVID JOY: Sure, it’s my pleasure. I wasn’t going anywhere, anyway.
PreCOVID JOY: You look … uh, great! I guess it’s been a tough year.
COVID me: Umm – thanks?
PreCOVID JOY: Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. It’s just that I was feeling pretty fit before COVID hit. I was doing that strength training class twice a week. And I was going to the Y on Sundays with Steve, running on the elliptical. I don’t suppose you and he ended up going on that Grand Canyon hike in October?
COVID JOY: Nope. It was canceled. We also had to cancel the river cruise down the Rhine that we planned to take last June.
PreCOVID JOY (looks COVID JOY over with critical eye, noting the extra pounds, the flabby arms): So, how have you been coping with those disappointments? Carbo-loading, huh? Are you getting any exercise?
COVID JOY: OK, that was rude. Yes, I am. For your information, I do yoga five times a week, here in the living room, via Zoom. I can even do crow pose now!
PreCOVID JOY (nods approvingly, looks impressed)
COVID JOY: I also take the dog out for walks. Steve often joins me for a long afternoon walk, or a shorter walk down to the brew pub to pick up a growler.
PreCOVID JOY: Ahh, I see. I drink wine in moderation, as I’m sure you remember. A glass or two of red wine on the weekends, mostly. Are you drinking a lot more now?
COVID JOY (squirms uncomfortably): Let’s just say I am supporting the City of Northfield by my regular purchases of wine at the municipal liquor store. I usually have one to two glasses of wine a night now. I know it’s not great for me physically – but it helps mentally, OK?
PreCOVID JOY: Not judging. I hear you’ve been through some things. Global pandemic. Batshit-crazy presidential election. Social unrest. I’m proud of you, really. You seem to have held it together.
COVID JOY: Thanks for saying that. I appreciate it. There have been some silver linings to the pandemic experience.
PreCOVID JOY: Really, like what?
COVID JOY: Well, you and Steve were empty nesters. But Steve and I got to enjoy having both Sebastian and Elias home with us during most of this past year. Without their company, I think it would have been harder to cope. They also helped with the cooking. We have a new system now, where we plan the menu out a week in advance, and they all take a turn making dinner one night; we do takeout one night, and then I fill in the rest.
PreCOVID JOY: Why didn’t I think of that before?
COVID JOY: Exactly! I’m hoping to keep that system going. It’s also been nice ordering groceries online and picking them up curbside. I’m less likely to buy stuff I don’t need.
PreCOVID: Are there other new routines you plan to continue?
COVID JOY: Well, you may remember that your Google calendar was jam-packed with social activities and meetings. You should see mine! So much simpler. The meetings I do have are conducted virtually, which saves travel time. It’s easier to turn down things I don’t really want to do – things that you would have said yes to in the before time. No one questions it! It’s nice not being over-scheduled. As things open up more, I hope I can find a happy medium.
(I take a sip of coffee and set down the mug)
COVID JOY: También, quiero seguir aprendiendo español.
PRECOVID JOY (looks surprised): What did you say? Were you speaking Spanish?
COVID JOY: Si. I’ve been learning it through Duolingo. I have a 200+ day streak going!
PreCOVID JOY: Good for you … Bueno? … So, the topic of languages makes me think about travel. Don’t you miss it?
COVID JOY: I do. I’m sure we’ll get back to it, once most people are vaccinated. In the meantime, we’ve been able to pay off some of the debt you and Steve racked up in those heady pre-pandemic days.
PreCOVID JOY (hangs head in shame)
COVID JOY: It’s OK. I’m glad you took those trips – since I haven’t been able to go anywhere, I’ve enjoyed looking at your photo albums. And who knows? Maybe the Grand Canyon trip will still happen.
PreCOVID JOY: I hope so! If you go, can you send me a postcard?
COVID JOY: Absolutely.
About the author: Joy Riggs (aka COVID JOY) lives, writes, and learns Spanish from her home in Northfield, Minnesota. She is the author of the nonfiction book Crackerjack Bands and Hometown Boosters: The Story of a Minnesota Music Man. Her essays have appeared in publications including the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Parent, Grown and Flown, and Mamalode. She writes about her family’s adventures in making and appreciating music at mymusicalfamily.blogspot.com. Find her on Facebook (@MyMusicalFamily), Twitter (@RiggsJoy) and Instagram (@riggsjoy).