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My Turn: Pandemic has turned the ordinary into something special

Toward the end of July, I changed direction. I ventured from my safe cocoon — my little world consisting of nature walks on empty trails, talking on the phone and continuous Zooming — into the greater world.

I don’t know how I got so brave. As for so many, maybe the monotony of my routine was just about ready to expire. So I left the confines of my home, the safety of my car and the protection the outdoors provided. I did what was unthinkable a few months ago. I actually went indoors, with other equally desperate people, armed with my mask and gloves and discreetly clutching a sanitizing hand wipe in my pocket.

Accompanied by my friend Deme, my sidekick, we braved a trip to BJ’s Wholesale Club in Riverhead. Ahh, the smell of the canned air through my mask at BJ’s.

What a thrill as I sanitized the shopping cart with a precious Lysol wipe before grasping it with latex-gloved hands. Oh, the warmth of the handle as my fingers wrapped around it.

There was a tingle in my toes as my feet sped up the aisles that beckoned me: Hot dogs and buns calling out for the outdoor barbecues we could still have, as long as we wore masks, socially distanced, with fewer than 10 people and, most important, did not share the condiments.

But the best was yet to come: the best place on Earth, Christmas Tree Shops. (Don’t let Disney tell you differently.) The glitter of the tinseled summer stock, patio umbrellas, beach chairs and bug-repelling candles, was laid out before me as I danced down the isles inhaling the sticky-sweet citronella fumes and dreamed of marshmallow roasts. I felt I had found the holy grail.

I’d had so many months of Amazon deliveries — no sensory stimulation, no touching, no tasting, no smelling, just a picture on a screen and 55 reviews by college kids who all swore by the products. But here was the real deal. Things smelled good, they were cold or warm, hard or soft, as I handled the merchandise.

After we finished shopping it was time for a final religious experience. What’s cold and sweet and creamy and glides down your throat when you inhale? Trust me, it doesn’t come through a screen.

A Snowflake Ice Cream Shoppe had shimmered on the road in route to BJ’s. A perfect place for lunch, open-air ordering at a window, bright yellow tape marking spots to stand so no one was going to be in your space — and the best part, we could eat it leaning against the car. Here we could unmask and enjoy our summer treat: the creamy, soft, cold blessings of a hot July day. God is good!

I added hot fudge, damn the extra calories. I don’t know when this will happen again, but I am grateful for a beautiful day doing the ordinary — which had become quite extraordinary.

Jackie Friedman,

East Hampton

YOUR STORY Letters and essays for My Turn are original works (of up to 600 words) by readers that have never appeared in print or online. Share special memories, traditions, friendships, life-changing decisions, observations of life or unforgettable moments for possible publication. Email act2@newsday.com. Include name, address, phone numbers and photos if available. Edited stories may be republished in any format.

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