I've woken up every morning since mid-March with the realization that this is still happening. We are still living through a pandemic. Sometimes it washes over me gradually like nostalgia. Sometimes it knocks the breath out of my lungs like a sucker punch.

This isn't normal.

I had to order five masks (one for each day of the week) as part of my son's back to school shopping. I tamped down the sadness and dread I felt imagining him wearing them all day long at Pre-K. The mask will hide his smile and muffle his giggles as he plays, but it will keep his teacher and his friends safe. I hope.

This isn't normal.

I walked leisurely around the grocery store the other day. Most of the empty shelves that existed at the beginning of the pandemic panic are full again, except for the shelves for disinfectants and cleaners. They still stand empty, a stark reminder that we're still doing all we can to protect ourselves from this novel coronavirus that has wreaked havoc on our lives. I never knew I would pine for Lysol this much.

This isn't normal.

My husband prepares for a visit to see his 94-year-old grandfather—the first time he's been allowed visitors in months. I'm terrified at the prospect of bringing something to his home that could cause him to get sick, but I also know the loneliness and isolation of the past months have done their own damage to Grandpa. My husband is going to mask up, go through temperature checks and try not to hug his own grandfather when he sees him.

This isn't normal.

I have actual dreams about life either before or after the pandemic—I can't quite tell.

They're simple dreams. Sometimes it's a scene of walking into a crowded restaurant with my family. We're unmasked, following the hostess as she leads us to our table. We pass a large group singing happy birthday to their aunt. Another group chattering loudly and leaning into each other conspiratorially as they tell stories and jokes.

Sometimes it's a dream of hugging the people I haven't seen since the beginning of 2020 (or in some cases, since 2019). My college roommate. My sister. My dad. We're hugging without the layer of caution and anxiety that accompanies personal interaction these days. We're hugging extra long without a care in the world.

I miss normalcy so badly it hurts.

I miss these dreams that used to be reality.

I miss the casual interactions of everyday life, the quick smiles with a stranger when you catch their eye, or the ease with which we used to stand next to each other at a crosswalk waiting for the light to turn.

I miss watching my son and his friends during a play date. The way a group of 3 and 4-year-olds can sound as loud as a cheering baseball stadium. The intensity of their imagination as they make up characters and scenarios, "You're the bad guy and I'm the good guy and I'm going to chase you to bring you to jail."

"Ahhh, nooo, don't chase me!" The stomping and running that follows.

My only son has had limited interaction outside of our family members for almost the entire time he's been 4 years old. It hurts to think about the memories he is missing out on.

I miss brunch with my friends. Or, more accurately, trying to make plans to have brunch with my friends for one or two months at a time, until we finally find that magical window when everyone can get a sitter or their partner or their neighbor to take the kids for a few so we can all sit around and catch up and feel like us again, not just mom.

I miss leaving for a date night. Showing the babysitter where the emergency numbers are and telling her that if my son gets up to ask for a snack, he can have peanut butter and jelly. I miss feeling safe leaving him home for a few while my husband and I catch up with each other. Getting a chance to really see and be with each other as friends and partners, not just parents.

I miss normalcy so badly it hurts.

One day, it will come back. But not yet. Not yet.