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Who will be the Duke (Duchess) of Durham?

I will never forget the day I had my second dose of Moderna’s vaccine since it portended the end of COVID's impact on me as an individual. But I think yesterday may rank as the day I felt our family had emerged from the pandemic. Partially, it is because we have returned to Durham for the week. But ironically, it was also because we had an awful Internet connection once we got here.

We moved from Durham in March, so it hasn’t been that long — just a few months for Jim and me, six for the kids — but we were all excited to reconnect with the community we lived in for 12+ years. We’d essentially “snuck out” given the virus made it too dangerous to say our goodbyes in person.

And other than Jack who met up with friends right after we landed, we hadn’t actually seen anyone we socialized with yet. Still, just knowing we had plans to be with Durham friends in person, rather than on Zoom, had us in an anticipatory state of mind.

It didn’t really hit me that this visit would feel so post-pandemic, however, until we discovered we had horrible Internet access. When we arrived at our rented cottage Sunday afternoon, we discovered the Internet was so slow that we couldn’t stream a movie. After we struggled with cellular to accomplish the things we really needed to do, we decided to play cards, specifically Mendicino.

Mendicino is our weird version of Rummy. It’s a travel tradition in our family: our go-to, time-kill on any trip we take together. It’s easy to carry a deck of cards, so we sit in cafes and hotel bars, really anywhere without too much wind, and compete for the title of wherever we happen to be. Jim has been the Ice King of Iceland, Emma the Princess of Portugal, Jack the Raj of Rajasthan, me the Contessa of Cabo, and that’s only since we started keeping track on Jim’s phone. Last night, we started competing to be Duke (or Duchess) of Durham (so appropriate), and competing at cards meant we were on a trip together as a family. Sure we’ve traveled a bit during the pandemic, but it just felt different. There was joy in the cards and the scheduled meetings with friends — things felt normal. What a wonderful day.

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