I come to you bearing no new news.
Of course, I must immediately retract and repudiate that. The news is always as new and holy as the day itself. The tulips are a little curlier, and the lilies are starting, and Talena just yawned in an entirely novel way, and there will be tiny world-changing kindnesses strewn throughout the world and your hours.
May we all have eyes to see and ears to hear.
But we’re forgetful creatures, looking down and ear-plugged, so let’s be gentle and honest with ourselves. Back in the soil where most of us spend our days and our thoughts, there’s nothing new, exactly.
We’re still under quarantine.
We can’t get our nails did or kiss our elderly uncles.
We can’t go to the grand opera or the corner bakery.
We can’t prance into Tabby’s Place, hugging cats and each other and normalcy with abandon.
Jonathan pointed out yesterday that, here in central NJ, it’s been eight weeks of All This. That’s long enough to fall in love, learn a good bit of Italian, and unlearn…well, normalcy.
It appears the cats are, as usual, leading the way with this (unlearning normalcy, that is; rumors of Suite B singing O Mio Babbino Caro from the ramps with a perfect Neapolitan accent have not yet been substantiated). They are delightfully down with the unreal reality that has become normality.
Sketch is doing her part to monitor our inventory of paper products.
Hope is climbing every mountain of Amazon boxes (and ordering fancy fish-flavored K-cups at night).
The Community cats are tripling up in the windows and tripping the light fantastic through their room, no longer confused by the lack of humans. (Emptier room = wider stage = all the more floor to skitter along like bocce balls.)
The cats are all, frankly, quite comfortable with this new arrangement, now oblivious to the fact that it’s “new.” They have settled in and shone on and set their sights on making the best of this, forever if necessary.
Everything new has become comfortably old.
Can you blame me for wondering if they’ve forgotten us?
Maybe they’ve gotten too comfortable with their dozen humans, realizing they don’t need the rest of us after all.
Maybe they’re rocking this routine too hard, the boxes and the silences and the calm.
Maybe they will have a hard time when everything old — o mio old life caro! — becomes new again. Will it be too new? Will they re-embrace us?
Will we re-embrace us, the old us and the old world, whatever its new incarnation might be?
Maybe that’s what I really fear here. The cats, in their infinite wisdom, will welcome us back with bliss, perhaps after some very brief bafflement. (“You’re back! You look weirder than ever! Bring forth the fish mush!”)
It’s us who have some readjusting to do.
And can I tell you a secret?
The truth is, there is news, bits and bobs of it in far-from-Jersey places, and the old normal is nibbling its way back. I will welcome it, as we all will. But shining in the distance, it’s a little bit daunting.
Maybe I’ve gotten too comfortable with my Rapunzel life of quiet quarantine and carefully-managed safety.
Maybe I’m rocking this routine too hard, the identical days and the sense of security and even the infernal Zoom meetings.
Maybe I will have a hard time when everything old becomes new, so very new, again. Will it be too strange to smile at each other through masks? Will I tremble like a leaf in Giant? Will I weep so hard I actually disintegrate into human sparkles when I first lay eyes and hands on Bucca?
I must trust.
I must believe.
I must rest in the fact that, when the time comes, we’ll all be given the courage and the confidence and the zinging zest we need to embrace our old life’s new form.
If you described the global pandemic to us back in, say, November, we wouldn’t have thought we’d have the grit and humor and mercy to get through All This. We’d have been scared and shaken and probably accused you of being daft as a brush.
But here we are, tougher and braver and kinder and sturdier than we could have imagined.
When the time comes, we’ll be given what we need, new enough to face the day and familiar enough to steady our knees. Old and new will do the tarantella, learning each other’s moves and moods and teaching us all we need to know.
And somehow, through each unimaginably new day, we will flow.