What will the “new normal”—my, how I’ve come to really dislike that phrase—look like across the Delaware River Towns? It feels a little premature to wonder about such a thing as I write this, seeing as how I’m square in the middle of Week 9 of quarantine, but every day, there are more indications that the shelter-at-home restrictions should begin to lift on both sides of the river within the next couple of weeks.
That doesn’t, of course, mean that life will snap back to the way it was when the coronavirus was merely something happening halfway around the world to people we didn’t know and, honestly, gave little thought to. To see just how tentatively those people have been inching back out into public has been more than a little discouraging.
Summer is here (unofficially). Our minds should be constantly distracted with thoughts of tubing down the river, day-drinking in New Hope and then catching our second wind that night in Lambertville, running 5Ks, taking long bike rides, and gasping at fireworks. But it’s hard to manage expectations now. After all, many of the usual things that bring us together in the summer, like the festivals and fireworks, will be noticeably absent this year.
Restaurants, at least, should be given the greenlight soon to move beyond curbside pickup. Yes, they’ll most likely be operating at a significantly reduced capacity for the foreseeable future. But, as the adage goes, something is better than nothing, particularly throughout the Delaware River Towns, where the restaurants and bars are responsible for so much of the vitality. The long, lazy lunch with a small group of friends at your favorite restaurant remains, for now, a possibility. And that’s no small thing.
Also: the farmers markets have been there all along.
The natural beauty that turns this region into a magnet during the warm-weather months is still there, too. Sure, we’ll have to keep our distance from each other as we stroll along the towpath or hike the park trails. It’ll be a little awkward at first, but the views won’t be diminished any because of it.
There will probably be moments when, sunburnt, stomach close to bursting, and cheeks hurting from so much smiling, we’ll forget we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. We should welcome those opportunities. It won’t be summer quite as we know it, but it will be sweet relief after spending weeks on end unable to avoid the virus and adjusting to the “new normal.”