We took our first steps toward “normalcy” last week on several fronts.

First, my daughter-in-law, Joy, decided maybe joining us at the pool we belong to would be a nice and relatively safe venture. As I’ve mentioned before, she’s a nurse practitioner and has been concerned that she not bring anything – particularly COVID-19 – home to her family or to us. As a result, we’ve seen our three Britt grandkids – Ariah, Thomas and Maddie – about three times in the last nine weeks, and then with appropriate social distancing.

So we were thrilled to meet them at the pool for lunch and an extended time in the water. Daughter Cat, also a pool member there, joined us with her two, Cade and Payton, so life seemed almost normal.

Of course, we’re under new rules at the pool, so it’s still a bit odd to wipe down the furniture with disinfectant upon arrival and departure. And we have to keep an eye toward the clock, since such pools are only allowed half capacity, and that means if ours is full by those standards, we’ve all been asked to limit stays to 90 minutes unless there’s no one waiting to get in.

It was a relatively slow day, so we were there closer to four hours with all five children in the water almost the entire time. It was fun to see the different personalities in the water. Ariah is a good swimmer. Cade and Payton have been on swim team, which sadly was canceled this year, so I enjoyed watching them race Opa, who can still beat them in swimming underwater without a breath. (Tom can still swim the length of the pool without a single breath – Cade can now beat his grandfather in free style but not in holding his breath; and Payton isn’t far behind them.)

Thomas, 5, and Maddie, 3, are both still in “swimmies,” but I can already see that Thomas is going to be a careful swimmer, and his little sister is going to put some grey hairs on all our heads – she already loves diving off the diving board and has to be watched carefully because she thinks nothing of swimming away without caring whether we have noticed or not.

There were a few other people at the pool, but we figured the chlorinated water surely would kill even coronavirus germs as they played.

My next venture was to Target. I have complained that my husband has been working twice as much during quarantine as he was working before March. I have previously reported that after he retired from SRS, he took a job with a subcontractor, doing pretty much the same thing he was doing before retiring. Pre-COVID-19, he had settled into about nine or 10 hours a week. The last two months it’s been closer to 20. The irony for me has been that he’s earning twice as much “fun” money but with the quarantine I’ve had nowhere to spend it. Yes, I am very familiar with Amazon, but I’m not good at random shopping there. I still prefer to see firsthand certain types of purchases. So Target was a big step. I’ve been to the grocery store a handful of times since March and to the pharmacy maybe three times, but that’s it. I have not had any retail therapy to speak of in two months.

The reason for my decision to trek forth at this time is that last Sunday was granddaughter Clarke’s 5th birthday. And that brings me to the next step in venturing forth. We decided we’d drive up to Greenville for her birthday. We hadn’t seen Clarke and her sister Pearce since all this started, and I was ready. At the same time, I think Cade and Payton have had enough of isolation as well. They begged to go too, and I knew my Greenville girls would be thrilled to see their cousins.

Liz had planned a small get-together with a handful of friends who attend the same schools as Clarke and Pearce. (In the last three years, both girls have enjoyed having birthday parties at Pump It Up – I have previously mentioned this house of inflatables and other great activities, which makes it easy to invite the whole class.) This year, Liz and Vince decided to rent an inflatable with a water slide and put it in the back yard. And I think everyone was happy to enjoy an afternoon with five or six kids plus the birthday girl, her sister and two cousins. There were no fights and little crying – one little boy did twist his ankle as he arrived at the bottom of the slide, but one of the parents in attendance is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, so we had a pro who could check out the ankle on the spot.

In fact, all the parents stayed with their kids. And almost all agreed that the kind of birthday party Clarke was having in many ways was far better than the typical huge crowd of screaming kids running around like banshees. While the kids all played nicely together, the adults had a chance to catch up – since they hadn’t really seen any of their friends in a while. We all enjoyed being able to sit and talk with few interruptions.

Unfortunately, old habits and rituals apparently die hard. As I was introduced to Liz’s boss’s husband, I instinctively put out my hand to shake his, and he instinctively reached out and took it. Only when Tom said, “Shouldn’t you be bumping elbows or something?” did I realize my faux pas – too late now. I guess two months of isolation can’t easily overcome a lifetime of well-ingrained rules of etiquette.

So I’m reentering the real world, whatever that is now, slowly but surely. I’ve already taken a couple of missteps there, and I’m hoping I don’t become a statistic of those contributing to the resurgence of COVID-19. Now I just want to say that if you see me on the street, and I reach out to shake your hand, it’s okay to shy away from taking it. I won’t be offended. In fact, if elbow bumps are a concern for you, just wave your fingers at me. I’ll understand.

And in case you’re wondering, I was finally able to have my nails done last week, and I’m feeling almost human again.