We dressed up in red, white and blue clothes. We ate all-American hamburgers. We played cornhole in the backyard. Then we drove to town to watch Elkin’s fireworks from our usual spot. Sitting on a blanket on the lawn of our church, which just happens to be right across the street from the park where the fireworks are shot off, it seemed just like the Fourth of July.

But it wasn’t.

First of all, it was June 27. For the past few years Elkin has chosen to do fireworks on the Saturday before the Fourth, to avoid conflicts with other municipalities that have their fireworks displays on the Fourth. “This means you can go to more than one event,” people will say. Although we only choose to go to one.

Second of all, it’s life during the pandemic. Living life in the time of COVID-19 means it’s a very calculated decision every time we leave our driveway. Especially as cases continue to rise in the state of North Carolina, there’s a lot to consider. Should we expose the kids to the public? Will we be able to social distance?

Bill wasn’t sure about going. He sees the very real side of COVID-19, working at a hospital. A 9-year old kid hospitalized. People in the ICU. Nurses worried about even coming in to work for fear they might be exposed and put their families at risk.

I insisted we go. At this point, the repetitive, mundane, isolated aspect of the pandemic is starting to wear on the kids. And me. Day after day spent at home. No summer camps. No sleepovers with friends. I know the days are passing, I’ve seen the seasons change from spring to summer with my own eyes. But there was no Easter egg hunt with the little ones at church. No end of school party. No Vacation Bible School to kick off summer in June. I never realized just how these social markers and traditions provide a sense of time passing, until we lived life without them.

So we went to the fireworks on Saturday. It felt great to be out, but definitely different. There was no big gathering at the park with food trucks and bounce houses before the fireworks. Rather than sitting with a group of friends, we waved to a few people we knew from a distance. Normal things, not in the normal way.

On Monday I took the kids to the pool. Another one of those things we do every summer, and something we hadn’t done yet. It felt good to go swimming, to feel like we were doing something “normal.” But at the same time it wasn’t normal.

We had to make reservations, because capacity is limited to 40. Reservations are for 2-hour blocks, so we planned our whole day around swimming from 12-2. (Not 3-5, because I was afraid that time of day was more prone to afternoon thundershowers). It wasn’t our usual swim day of going whenever we happen to finish lunch, with my insistence that we’re only staying two hours, and then end up staying three because friends come and we make a day of it.

This time we didn’t know any of the other 25 or so people who had reserved that time. There were no toys allowed in the pool. No tables set up. And without the day campers there it felt more like swimming at a private pool than the city one.

Going to the pool was fun. Yet surreal. Much like the fireworks.

It’s summer. Summer during a pandemic.

Life’s moving forward. It might be a little off kilter, but it’s going.

What better way to celebrate than with 27th of June fireworks?