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Under the Sweet Gum Tree – AGAIN
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Last year during the pandemic, the sweet gum tree on our front lawn here in Eugene, Oregon provided shade. Its branches stretched wide and high up into the sky and the trunk is as wide as some of the Douglas firs I’ve seen. It was the only place my boyfriend and I would meet with our friends because the front yard is huge and there’s room to social distance unless, of course, you were together like my neighbors Howie and Robin and me and my boyfriend. We’d chat for hours sometimes and jam as well. Howie and Robin play guitar, especially Howie, and I play ukulele. Savoy plays drums and flute, and he was so happy when things opened up a bit after the vaccines, and he could rehearse with his drums again and play. He missed that. I did see him play at an outdoor backyard party recently with his band, and they were awesome.

Today felt like a deja vu situation, like we’ve all done this before. A group of friends arrived and situated themselves around the sweet gum tree which pretty much stretches across almost all of the front yard. It’s a tree you can see from a distance, like one of those giant white oak trees only it’s not an oak tree. We didn’t mention that it’s come back to this again because all of us knew. We’re all vaccinated. Howie and Robin worked with the public throughout the entire pandemic wearing masks during their eight-hour shifts. And then I hear people complain about wearing a mask in a grocery store. Please. In Oregon, the governor has called for an indoor mask mandate, and now an outdoor mask mandate when you’re in public, We think it’s good, my friends and I, but some disagree. We just want to get this whole thing under control, but it’s not happening.

When Sunnie and Mikey went inside our pad to use the bathroom, they wore masks just as they did before. We laughed and talked and enjoyed each other’s company. We’re more fortunate than others who cannot meet like this, or who are in dire situations right now. I’m grateful for the sweet gum tree and our friends. We will get through this again. I long to drive back down to California to visit my grandkids again, whom I finally got to see last June. But now things are up in the air. Again. My heart breaks because I can’t see them often.

I got to attend one live in-person ukulele jam since before the pandemic, and now I probably won’t again for quite a while. I drove two and a half hours to Portland for the jam. My old friend Leonard whom I’d known in California since the beginning of my ukulele playing journey was leading the jam and I couldn’t miss it. Hearing all the ukuleles play around me and everyone singing happily at the tops of their lungs, me included, made me so happy that it brought tears to my eyes. This is what it’s all about, gathering together and making music, and being around people.

Will things ever be the same again?

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