Kathy Gibbons: Welcome spring -- more than ever

Allison Batdorff, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.
·3 min read

Apr. 11—Spring always makes me hopeful.

It feels like coming out of the darkness into the light — especially true this year.

And it's why, after a lot of discussion and soul-searching, we decided to take a trip for spring break. Rather than a condo with a pool on the water in Florida as we have done many times in the past, we opted for a socially distant house — no pool — a few blocks from the ocean in South Carolina. We figured we could just as easily follow pandemic protocols there as here, but with a change of scenery, shot of warmer weather and a wide-open beach.

It was just what the doctor ordered after one surreal year. The very act of crossing the state line felt like breaking out of jail.

My daughter and her family came, too; unfortunately, my son's family is in a school pod arrangement with protocols that prohibited them from being able to go.

We, because of our ages, and our daughter the teacher are fully vaccinated. My son-in-law and their two young daughters aren't, which meant we ate most of our meals at home except for a few restaurant dinners on an outdoor deck overlooking a marsh — another glimmer of normal.

We were glad to see on trips to the grocery store that others were masked. As we packed up to leave, we felt we'd been responsible in the way we managed our activities.

Then came an overnight stay in southern Ohio just across the border from West Virginia on the way home. We got in earlier than expected and with a few hours to kill, decided to eat at a nearby restaurant. While it wouldn't be outdoors, my husband and I had been to dinner inside in Traverse City a few times since restrictions here were eased a little and we expected that sort of reduced-capacity scenario there as well.

Far from it. It was like being in an alternate universe. A time warp. The restaurant was packed with Friday night diners. No tables had been removed or marked closed. There were large groups having birthday parties capped off with the staff surrounding them singing. Pandemic? What pandemic?

All day long on the radio we'd been hearing how COVID numbers were going up everywhere with new, more contagious variants surfacing. We should have gotten our food to go and left. I honestly don't know why we didn't.

Later I looked up the COVID numbers for that county and saw that confirmed cases were up 1 percent over the previous week. Deaths were up almost 2 percent. And we're partying like it's 2019?

Back home now, even vaccinated, we'll continue to wear masks in public and be thoughtful about where we go and what we do because it's still the right thing.

But as the days get longer, temperatures get warmer, trees and flowers bloom and more people get vaccinated, I am hopeful that this spring in particular truly marks the start of our emergence from the dark.

Kathy Gibbons is a former city and features editor at the Record-Eagle.