Key West is six months into this COVID-19 thing and we might be getting the hang of it. I feel pretty optimistic, sitting here on the front porch, listening to the neighbors chat back and forth across the street, trying to make deadline and running possible supper menus in the background.

Saturday, March 7, was my last day of normal Before COVID-19 (BC19). Had morning coffee on the porch with Sandy, who lives around the corner. Lunch with Cheryl and Elizabeth, wine tasting at the Roost with Sheila, Andi and Tony, Martha, Daniel and half a dozen others. (Jean was in Hawaii.) We giggled and tried out the elbow bump replacement for hugs, which were a wine tasting ritual among friends. We knew about the novel coronavirus, of course, but there were no reported cases in Key West and folks who were sneezing and coughing had Key West Crud. Normal stuff.

A week later, Key West closed itself down, began sending visitors home and contemplated a roadblock on the 18-Mile Stretch. We taught ourselves to make masks and sent donations to the 801 Girls, Star of the Sea Foundation and Sister Season Fund. We canceled plans and sought refunds for long-planned trips; scrounged for toilet paper and alcohol (the sanitizing stuff; we had plenty of the other); learned to use the phrase social distancing without getting tongue tied. It all felt so much like a party. How long could it possibly last?

I've resigned myself to five years. Five years for the vaccines to be universally effective and as mindless as the annual flu shot. Five years to re-imagine the economy and begin a recovery. Five years to accept and settle into a new world. And, so I don't sound like Pollyanna, that's five years assuming we don't blow ourselves apart in some new world order political nightmare.

We're six months into the five years of building After COVID-19 and we're making our ways through the seven stages of grief. I routinely cycle among them, including all the way back to "shock and denial." Most often these days, though, I can find myself in the "reconstruction and working through" part.

Which brings me to the five things that gave me hope this week.

1. Publix removed the one-way aisles. It’s a wonderful feeling of normal and there's no congestion because, well, people actually know how to go up and down aisles on opposite sides. It was always the “oops, I went the wrong way and now have to turn around and screw up everyone” stuff that was bollixing up the aisles. With the one-ways gone, one can breeze along with a "may I go around you" like in the BC19 "old days." Oh, and there are no "haters" just waiting to catch me coming down the wrong way.

2. My foster kittens use the litter box and eat from plates. Go ahead. Laugh. But, until you've bottle-fed 4-day-old kittens and helped them poo and pee, you'll have little concept of how gloriously normal (not to mention schedule clearing) those two things can be. They're 6 weeks old, cute as fuzzy lumps of coal and a great reminder that life doesn't stop because of politics and viruses.

3. My kids put October on the calendar. Son, daughter-in-law and grandson live in Atlanta. They were regular house guests BC19. We've postponed the April trip half a dozen times. I am resigned to accepting we might have to do that again. But, right now, it's on the calendar. That's the reality of COVID-19; plans have to be flexible. Going to call Honest Eco when I'm finished with this and see if we can get re-booked for that dolphin watching adventure.

4. Hurricane season is halfway over. Hurricane Isaias missed us and the next three look like they'll go elsewhere. We'll be on watch through November, but YAY for halfway. Oh, and we finally after a decade of waffling installed a portable generator. We'll have ice for martinis and a window AC if we still have a roof and walls.

5. The little things. God bless all these daily reminders of normal:

The U.S. Postal Service carriers who, along with UPS and FedEx, stop by the house with a kind word, a smile and the 100 pounds of cat litter I couldn't find at the store.

The weekly Zoom happy hour with four politically minded, smart women who really should record these as a video podcast.

Coffee on my front porch with friends who bike through the neighborhood. The happy hour with my "coven" on said same. The neighbors who paint beautiful things, sweep the curb in front of my house, share the delightful Mr. Ivor and make this home. (All socially distanced and masked in case you were about to ask.)

Celebrating these everyday things is part of my five-year plan for "reconstructing and working through." What's your little thing?

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor of Key West Island News and owner of KeyWestWatch Media.

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