Tom: "Is it just me, or does this feel a little like Christmas Eve?"
Gwen: "It really does. I guess it makes sense. We've been waiting a whole year."
Tom: "It's weird how excited I am about this."
Gwen: "Me, too. I can hardly wait for tomorrow morning. I'd turn a cartwheel right now if I wasn't afraid of breaking something and missing the appointment."
And this, my friends, is the kind of conversation that happens in 2021 -- when you're about to go to sleep at night and wake up on Vaccination Day. It's the most wonderful time of the year.
I'd felt a similar joy in early February when our state began offering vaccinations to people older than 70, which is my parents' age group. As soon as Mom and Dad passed the two-week period following their second dose, I felt like I could finally exhale the nervous breath I'd been holding for almost a year. The pandemic has been scary for all of us, but it brought a sharper threat for people worried about parents, grandparents or immune-compromised family members, knowing that something as simple as the wrong whiff of air could bring tragedy home.
Once she was fully vaccinated, my 76-year-old mother skipped off to the grocery store as if it were Disney World. She'd really missed pushing a cart through the aisles and picking her own produce. I'd spent months trying to convince her that grocery delivery is a time-saving luxury, but some people just don't want anyone else picking out their lemons. She loves the ritual of grocery shopping and the little surprises she finds along the way.
Tom and I aren't nearly as picky about lemons, but we'd missed our favorite restaurants during these past 12 months. We ordered takeout regularly, not only because we were sick of our own cooking, but also because we wanted those restaurants to be in business once the covid-19 cloud lifts. But while takeout is good, it can't quite compare to having hot plates delivered to the table by a skilled waiter you recognize from previous visits. Amazing restaurant food is one thing. Combining it with a great restaurant experience makes it something special.
So, when we were finally eligible to get the vaccine, we spent hours online scouring every pharmacy website within a two-hour driving radius, hoping to find appointments. We'd heard tips from friends who'd already had their shots that sometimes it's easier to find vaccine appointments in more rural areas. When we finally got scheduled, it felt like winning an immunization lottery. It was as if Oprah Winfrey (of "free car" fame) had pointed at each one of us, shouting, "YOU get a shot! And YOU get a shot!"
On Vaccination Day, Tom and I drove an hour to a smaller town where we'd found appointments. The drive was more than worth it, and we both rolled up our sleeves as if that nurse was about to give us a shot followed by a million dollars. It was finally our turn, and we walked out of that pharmacy feeling distinctly lighter than when we'd gone in. We tucked our precious vaccination cards into safe places and marked the calendar in anticipation of our second dose. Sore arm? Fatigue? Bring it on, we said. We're just happy to be on the road to immunity.
The only other times I've been that happy to see a needle were the days my children were born. Although I've always been nervous about needles, I was practically begging the doctor to bring in the biggest needle he could find, as long as it meant I'd finally get an epidural to numb the contractions that sent me into orbit every other minute. I remember thinking that labor contractions were probably what first gave rise to the phrase "wanted to crawl out of my own skin."
Of course, the pain was well worth it in the end. Those contractions gave us a whole new life to celebrate.
And the hours spent searching for covid-vaccination appointments plus the slight sting of the injection have also given us a gift -- a rebirth of sorts. A chance to see family members we've missed. A return to crowded holiday events. And laughing with friends over the dinner table at a great restaurant.
If you haven't already, here's hoping you experience the joy of vaccination soon. We've all waited a long time. Cheers to a new beginning.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at [email protected] Her book is available on Amazon.