Friday, June 02, 2023

An Outing

The evening took us away from our house and to an event hall filled with people, many of whom we knew.

The occasion was the celebration of a friend's 25th year in business. She is a massage therapist (with emphasis on the therapist), and now about 64 years old. I saw her for many years, and sent my husband to see her, and gave gift certificates to friends and family to enjoy her services (though I suspect most of those went unused, stuffed in some drawer).

It is unusual for a massage therapist to last so long; they generally wear out, from what I understand. Bing says the average career of a massage therapist is 5 to 8 years. The fact that Karen has worked for long - and kept herself in shape so that she was able to do it - was indeed something to celebrate. Giving a massage is hard work.

Despite the fact that we have 33,000 people in our county, it's really a small community. The event was held at the Kyle House, once known as Bolton's Store, in the county seat. The building is an events venue, and there were easily 50 plus people there when we arrived.

Since the most public places I have been since 2019 are grocery stores, this was a bit much for me; the sweet, cloying scent of perfumes, powders, and colognes, so many people in a smaller space than a massive market.

But I had accepted the invitation knowing that I am trying to claw my way back to civilization, having become almost - but not quite - agoraphobic during the pandemic, seldom leaving the house, only venturing out to purchase food. As for other items, let's just say the UPS man and I are on a first-name basis.

So, this was a personal test, which I passed. I am grateful that I went, happy to have seen so many familiar faces after so many years of seeing only scowls in the supermarket. These people were happy, caring on pleasant conversations, and enjoying themselves.

The people I knew included my physical therapist, whom I hadn't seen since 2019. She suffocated me in an embracing and long hug the moment I walked in the door. I stiffened at first, having determined previously that I didn't want physical contact, but she was so sincere, and I like her so much that it was only a moment of light panic, and then I hugged her back with similar intensity. 

I also saw a former county supervisor, whom I'd really enjoyed working with and was sorry to see retire many years ago, a cousin who said she wants to meet for coffee, my dear friend Leslie (another hug) and her brother, who informed us he had retired as a surveyor that very day, (I also called him by another brother's name, oops), and an ex-husband of another dear friend. I also greeted a former employer and his wife, a contractor and his wife, both of whom have known my husband most of his life, a former high school pal, a former firefighter's wife, and of course Karen, who was throwing herself this bash.

I had a couple of chicken salad sandwiches and a cookie, along with water. A pile of articles about Karen sat on the end of one table, and I only had to flip over a page before I saw my byline, again and again. I've written so much about this county and its people over the last 30 years. Of course I'd written about Karen. In fact, I wrote the first article about Karen's business, I think.

My former employer (a lawyer then, retired now) saw one of the articles and then chased me down to show me. "Here's your name," he said, thrusting the story at me. He pointed it out to someone I didn't know. "She wrote this."

Yes, I wrote that. It was nice to know it meant something to someone, or several someones, even though it was years old.

No one had on masks, including me. Everyone is over that, although I still wear one when I go pick up drugs at the drug counter. If there are going to be germs anywhere, it's in there. I had a mask in my pocket, but I didn't put it on (I admit it was tempting).

Almost everyone was dressed up, in nice work clothes or church clothes, including us (although I had on my sneakers because I can't get my orthotic in any other shoe). I enjoyed myself. My husband enjoyed it. We left after an hour, with things still going full swing, when I finally felt the perfumes and smells seeping into my lungs and felt an asthmatic wheeze coming on.

I guess I'm coming out into the world again.

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