Socially Distant

niederer 0420
Cold and gray and just me and Oz this morning, last night the road in front of Fred and Lisa’s house was convivially occupied.

Lynn and I had Plans. While I’m sure the rest of you didn’t, and you all are enjoying this massive upheaval in Existence, Lynn and I are finding this to be rather disruptive, particularly on our social life.

Now, we are not the most social couple out there, and we had already, in our new house, done more entertaining in a few months than we had done in 15 years at the old house, but we did have two social plans for our new abode that now may not come to pass.

Probably from the moment we purchased our lot — and hosted our first party under Lynn’s market tent that lasted only until the sun set and the mosquitoes rose — we assumed that we would host an open house, inviting friends old and new to come see this house we really love.

Initially we assumed this would take place last fall, after we immediately unpacked and found homes for every last one of our belongings. Since we still have an entire garage bay’s worth of unpacked boxes and furniture, that was clearly a farfetched fantasy. But a party in April, although weather is highly unpredictable, or perhaps May, did not seem out of the question.

Until. Well, you know.

Chances seem high that an open house will be an ill-advised move for probably another year, if not two. The bloom will be off this rose by then, even though we will still likely have an entire garage bay’s-worth of unpacked boxes and furniture. And we will have had to move anyway by then, because we already have a plant bumping into the ceiling that is at least a foot and a half taller than the one it was bumping into at the old house.

The other social event we had planned should eventually be possible: we wanted to have a get-together for our new neighbors. We were not the only ones with this thought; Lisa, down the road, wanted to have a neighborhood barbecue last year, but we were all so busy and it seemed like we had all the time in the world. You know.

I must confess we had sort of a dry run for this yesterday, in what was easily the most social of all my days to date in our new neighborhood.

“Neighborhood” may be a bit optimistic still, since for every house there are three vacant lots, but we’re getting there. A house is going up, the first on Caddis Fly Lane, and we know, thanks to public information on the county assessor’s website, that this is the Ford house, but what we don’t know is if the Fords, who live in Texas — or at least get their property taxes sent there — will be living here full-time or visiting two weeks out of every year (assuming county orders ever allow people to visit homes they own).

And word on the street, such as it is, is that the family trust that didn’t have a lot of luck selling their 15 or so remaining lots last year may be building not one but two spec houses.

For now, though, it’s just 10 households, rather spread out. We’ve at least interacted, if not been formally introduced, to every other household (although I have yet to see the Vernons other than in car passing).

A neighborhood get-together, outdoors, where we could all not-so-formally exchange names and pleasantries, ought to be manageable at some point here in a month or two. And, as I confessed, or meant to, we had a dry run for this yesterday.

Right now, in this very instant of time, the biggest perk of living at Riverwalk means being able to go about one’s neighborhood routine without concern. Even with an influx of dog walkers and runners from without, it’s plenty possible to go for a stroll and not run into anyone. And if you do, perchance, happen upon someone, there’s lots and lots of room for distancing, whether we call it “physical” or “social.”

But yesterday while Oz and I were out on our morning constitutional, we crossed paths with the Leonards, he on a bike, she on foot, getting their dog Maggie and themselves a bit of air.

Maggie is the doyenne of the neighborhood dogs, and she doesn’t have much use for these young upstarts, or even old upstarts like Oz. She’s not snappish, just socially distant. She would just as soon go on about her business, although she’s always quite happy to see me — or at least my Milk Bone Flavor Snacks.

We all stopped, several feet apart, but then after Mr. Leonard inquired about our health and I confessed (it was almost a Catholic day yesterday, given how confessing was going on) that Lynn was under the weather. At that point I felt rather chagrined that I had not bothered to bring any sort of face covering with me.

I don’t know how you know, without testing, whether you have a worldwide viral contagion or not. Every little ache or pain is magnified under this lens of fear, and the symptoms are so broad it’s difficult to know. Lynn’s ailment started with an upset stomach, which is on the symptom list but generally farther down, but she also had an intermittent headache.

Late yesterday she decided her headache was gone, and she was eating food and it was staying put, so she has gone off to work today, advised or not. When we get to my next confession, which I’m sure we’ll do eventually, Fred said he lost a week’s worth of work from four guys because one, in close contact with the others, had a fever, body aches and other symptoms — and then it turned out to be a cracked tooth.

Since Lynn was feeling better, and I had spent the day glued to one chair in front of one computer, we both took Oz out for his evening walk — and saw Fred and Lisa, out in front of their house with Rufus, their Airedale puppy. So far, Oz and Rufus are getting along famously, and after Flavor Snacks had been dispensed, they ran all over the place while we maintained distance and conversed with Fred and Lisa.

It turned out that Rufus was going stir crazy, so they had sent an invitation over to the Cattles house to see if Toby, the year-old yellow Lab, could come play. While the four of us were talking, along came two of the three Cattles girls with Toby.

The three dogs ran and ran and ran, completely unconcerned with their proximity, while six humans spread along the road, carrying on two conversations. The girls, both teenagers, reported that on-line school is difficult and not much fun while Fred, owner of a plumbing/HVAC company, said he is spending three times as much time as he used to on scheduling, because he’s not allowed to have more than four workers on a job that usually schedules 10. But he is grateful to be working and to have work for his employees.

Eventually the Cattles parents came along, intending to gather their family for dinner, but you know how that goes. I asked John if someone in their house had a birthday, because during the afternoon I’d watched a parade of cars turn into their driveway and then listened as they honked wildly. (Yes, their youngest turned 12 yesterday.)

No matter how unplanned, or how spread out, this was still an illegal event under county regulations (so don’t tell the county, which is John’s employer), but as long as I’m confessing, I’m very glad it happened. And I very much look forward to the day when we can all congregate legally and safely around a grill and get to know one another even better.

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