The light at the end of the tunnel just got immeasurably brighter for me with the acquisition of my “Get Out of Jail Free” card, and unless you already have yours in hand, you have no idea how liberating it feels.

Or to put it more simply, last Saturday I got my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and I now have the official card that states the “what, when, and where” of it, along with having been verbally instructed to hang onto that card as it may be required proof of vaccination at some future date, as when boarding a plane or needing surgery.

It’s not just the fact of having the card that matters so much per se, but what it represents. There is enormous relief in knowing that even though I still stand a chance, albeit a smaller one, of being infected, I most likely won’t die from it, or even require hospitalization should that occur.

Even better than that, though, is that although I may still need to wear a mask when out and about, I will now be able to socialize ... bare-faced ... with others who have also become card-holding members of this increasingly large group that already includes many, many people I have missed so much during the past year.

I can have Elaine over for a baked mac and cheese dinner followed by some vigorous “kickass” Scrabble just like we used to do way back in pre-pandemic times.

Jeanne and I can finally go out for the fried clams we had searched for in vain in fall at Flo’s Clam Shack in Newport, which should have its seasonal reopening almost any day now. Not only that, but we had also promised to take each other out for Chinese food to celebrate our April birthdays. She said she would pay for my lunch. I said I’d pay for hers. “Same day?” she asked. “Yep,” I replied, and then we laughed and laughed, which is what you do when you’re friends.

I am also champing at the bit to resume our regular French immersion group meetings in person again, although we realize it won’t be quite the same without our friend Walter who always volunteered to bring pastry, often from Wright’s Farm, to our monthly meetings. When he failed to show up at our last gathering, held outside in the cold last November, we wondered where he was, only to learn that he had died of COVID-19 just days later. (My eyes are tearing up now just writing this.) He was a big guy with a white beard who loved the color red, so his absence from our tables will be a painful reminder of our loss for some time to come.

I have missed our Tuesday morning knitting group! The large brown shopping bag has stood near the hearth for more than a year now, waiting for knitted hats to start dropping into it once more.

And dare I even hope that as more and more seniors are vaccinated, the Senior Pitch leagues might be able to start playing again soon? These are people I only saw at cards, but have missed schmoozing with for more than a year now. It has left two large but separate holes in my life that I look forward to filling back in again soon.

And then there’s bowling!

I know some already went back once the bowling alley opened again with modifications, but between my recent back surgery and my fear of catching the virus, I have stayed away. However, given my newly acquired vaccinated status, I am seriously thinking of stopping by some quiet morning to see if I can still swing my sissy 9-pound ball without dropping to my knees in pain. (Fingers crossed.)

Biggest and best of all, however, is the possibility of getting together with my family. I miss the whole gang getting together over potluck meals where everyone comes in with enough food and drink for an army (Remembering our family motto: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing) and filling every nook and corner of the house with chatter and laughter.

I really miss having my youngest grandson JR (who is currently quarantined in N.Y. with school-acquired COVID-19) and the rest of the cousins here. The four guys are already between 13 and 14 years old, so I know they will soon be outgrowing me ... as they should ... but in the meantime I would enjoy having them here and taking them out to the Texas Roadhouse, KFC, and wherever else floats their boat as much as possible while I still can. Pity that we have already had to miss the whole last year.

It just occurred to me how much fun it would be for all the families to get together as soon as the weather warms up just a bit more for a night at the drive-in theater. They wouldn’t all need to be vaccinated for that and it wouldn’t even matter what was playing. I can see it all now, three generations of us with coolers, blankets, folding chairs and bug spray yucking it up and having a grand old time together at last. I’d even volunteer to bring a giant bucket of homemade buttered popcorn to share. What a blast!

Looks like life as we once knew it is getting ready to crack open again and I can hardly wait!

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.

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