Are We Masking Our Emotions?


A big week as I planned my first social distancing meeting with a friend yesterday. She suggested three meeting places while allowing me to decide on what would feel the most comfortable during this time of social distancing.  I selected the most open space area with the probability of the least likely amount of people. I reminded myself that this is Vermont and not downtown Boston. The extra added bonus being that the location was just a few miles from my home. Perfect day for a bike ride. The sun was strong, a cooling breeze and a simple ride. 

Starting down the road the immediate feel of freedom washed over me. A childlike freedom. The most genuine type of freedom. I was remembering summer bike rides to reach any and all destinations. Friends’ houses, sandlot ball games, Mr. Baker’s Corner Store.  Just near the store wooden counter with Mr. Baker at the register sat a deep white freezer with a sliding heavy scratched glass cover. Each scratch giving evidence of the many children and the many sales before me. Children like me that stood high on their toes reaching deep down into the freezer with their hands, arms and a small portion of their upper body. Reaching for fudgsicles, popsicles or possibly a hoodsie. The freezer had thick walls of ice making the ice cream impossibly hard to eat without the warmth of the outdoors to aid the thaw. Childhood memories…great memories. 

My ride was straight forward and relaxed. Noticing the few cars that passed me in both directions possessed out of state license plates which “normally” would not stand out as Memorial Day is upon us.  Second homes become occupied once again as last visited might have been ski season. Tourism would normally be upon us and welcome as it is an important part of our Vermont economy. But notable it is now.  Are they self-quarantining? 

My only other bike traveler was a young boy of 8, 9 or maybe 10 years of age. He was wearing a red sports jersey and more specifically a Boston Red Sox jersey. I imagined what a beautiful day it would have been to be at Fenway Park to watch a game. The crisp white uniforms as the players take the manicured field is one of my very favorite moments at the start of a baseball game. I could imagine it, hear the sounds of fans settling in and the vendors shouting peanuts, popcorn, hot dogs! Ice Cold Beer! Summer. Summer sounds. Summer life. I noticed the young boy had pulled to the side of the road and as I passed by, I glanced over to see if he was ok and he was. He was attending to his mask. More accurately he was putting his mask on. One can’t help but wonder if he was heading home and meeting a parent’s mask requirement? Had he left the house with the mask on, rode just enough distance to be out of site and removed it? I understand as it is hard to exercise with a mask on. This will be an issue as kids will be kids. I remember making my own fashion adjustments on the school bus going to school once out of my parent’s view…my mother’s all-knowing view. The difference being now there are much more dramatic consequences.  How do we manage this?  How to live childlike yet safely …

The afternoon had all the lovely elements of a lazy unofficial summer day albeit a Thursday. Hours, days, weeks and now months have lost their structure and meaning. One travels light on a bike as my bike saddle had just enough room for the emergency tire repair items in case of a dreaded flat. No bike shirt today as I was visiting with a friend. No phone, no watch…no recognition of time with the exception of our meeting time. I arrived. Found a place to lean my bike, a picnic table to sit at while I waited for my friend to arrive. Landscapers were busy grooming the vast lawn. A young family working on their CSA. A father and son laughing and talking as they navigated the wheel barrel for more dirt. Both wearing masks, the son’s a youthful pattern while dad sported a solid blue. Their lively conversation and laughter were as relaxed and playful as in usual times and maskless times. I guess we are managing. We are adapting.

I sat quietly while I waited five or maybe it was ten minutes as I had no device to confirm how long. The sun brightly shining down on my face felt warm and reassuring. It dawned on me that we will soon have a new definition for tan lines!!!! Will our masks create an image similar to a clown’s white and extended mouth? Instagram posts will be quite entertaining as we continue to live in a not so entertaining time. We are certainly trying to make the best of our circumstance as we move forward with some calculated risks. 

Happy to see my friend and we settled into a socially distanced chat. She sported a very cute mask. Maybe orange is the new black but are masks our new fashion statement? We sat many feet apart but no less engaged in conversation. Chatting with a new friend who has quickly become a dear friend. We had time to learn about each other. Time for questions. Time for more thoughtful and expansive answers. Very nice indeed. A meaningful conversation with a stunning Vermont background. Hours passed without notice. A welcome new friendship. Moving is hard. Being relatively new in an area is even harder. Grateful.

The ride home was a little slower as I took the time to enjoy the beauty around me. I passed just a few houses as is common in Vermont, but people were sitting in their yards waving and saying hello as I rode by…

A different kind of warmth brought me all the way home…

Author: Elizabeth Ricketson

A graduate of Providence College with a BA in English, Elizabeth Ricketson has always had a love of literature and the fine arts. Elizabeth’s essays focus on life experiences and life in Vermont.

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