This is not a list of 21 things I’m going to do, it is a list of things I’m going to do again in 2021.

There were an awful lot of things that I stopped doing or didn’t get the chance to do in 2020 and I intend to get back to them and/or make up for missing things in the coming year. I think this may be the easiest New Year's resolutions list I’ve ever made as far as getting around to doing them. Of course, we’ve got to wait for folks to get the vaccine and for the pandemic to get down to a non-pandemic level (not quite sure what that is ... normal flu rates?), but at some point we’ll be back to “normal." The folks did it with the Spanish flu pandemic in 1920 and we’ll get to it in the year to come.

Unless, and I hate to be pessimistic with a new year starting, 2021 becomes “2020: The Sequel.” I’m a movie buff and I know from movie experience that sequels are frequently worse than the original. They are usually rushed, cheaper, made by a second rate director and frequently don’t even have the original cast.

And these days the sequels go on and on. "Rocky 7" anyone?

There are only a handful of sequels that are considered as good as or better than the original. This short list includes "The Godfather 2" and "The Bride of Frankenstein." My expectations are that this year will be better since we’re starting with such a bad year to begin with. In Hollywood, if the original is a flop they usually don’t bother making another one.

Warming the cockles of my heart

One of the first things I’m looking forward to is hugging again. Even with my family members in my household, the hugs have been pared down and are shorter and not as close as in the past.

Just thinking about running into a dear friend on the street I haven’t seen in a long time and getting to embrace them properly warms the cockles of my heart (not exactly sure what a cockle is but I know I’ve got them as mine have been running cool all this year). There’s just something human about a hearty "hail fellow, well met" hug of an old classmate or a buddy or pal.

My wife is from Brazil and down there, like the French, they actually give the old peck on the cheek when they meet up with folks, even new people they are just getting introduced to. I guess they’ve really had a time of it down there, trying to maintain social distance. And that’s another thing, I think it should be called “antisocial distance” because it’s not social. It’s standoffish, if anything.

Taking cues from your eyes

Another thing I’m going to do is wash that mask I’ve been wearing one last time and stick it waaaaay back in the sock closet. It’s going behind all those socks with the holes in the toes that I never wear anymore but haven’t thrown away.

I guess I won’t throw the mask away, although tossing it in the river or burning it in the fireplace would be very psychologically rewarding, I think. It’s going to be nice to see people’s entire face now although one thing I have learned is that just about everybody does have nice eyes and that I can tell when someone’s smiling just from the eyes. That’s a nice thing to know and maybe I’ll be better at taking cues from your eyes a little more in the future instead of looking to someone’s mouth to get visual clues of their mood.

I guess it’s a good thing this wasn’t a virus that was spread through the eyes and we all had to wear masks over the top half of our faces. One thing I’m going to get to quit doing is checking my pockets to make sure I’ve got a mask in there or to look around the car as I’m backing out of the driveway to make sure the extra is in there.

Little mini-vacations

I’ve been one to be very careful of eating indoors. My parents are in their 80s now and so I’ve been following all the precautions for their sake.

I miss restaurants. Going to a restaurant is like going on a little mini-vacation. It’s a change of view, a change of pace and a change of diet. A trip to a restaurant helps recharge the old gray cells upstairs.

Some places have opened up their dining rooms with checkerboard seating and masked employees, and some are only doing drive-thru and take-out. I’ve done the take-out thing and let’s face it, fajitas from your favorite Mexican place in town served up hot at your table is different from fajitas 20 minutes later in your kitchen. Time and Styrofoam take-out plates are not conducive to maintaining sizzling. On top of that, your burritos wrapped in tin foil are overly moist. I hate overly moist burritos.

At the Oakwood, for example, when I go inside to eat, there is almost always someone that I know. I can go table to table and catch up on what’s going on around town and in friends’ lives. With COVID-19, that has all gone away. And what if you have a favorite server that you’ve come to be friends with over the years?

All I’m saying is that I know the masked faces of all the take-out window workers in town now. I think it would be a fun game to try and guess people just from their eyes. And I think I could do a pretty good job these days. I’ll include the eyes of the people that work at the bank drive-thru. Once we get far enough into 2021 that I’ve had my vaccine, I’m going to make a list of my favorite places to eat and work my way through it, taking time to just enjoy sitting there.

The COVID-19 tango

Another thing I’m looking forward to in 2021 is when things get back to normal enough I no longer find myself dodging people. These days I’m in the grocery store and I’ll walk around one corner of an aisle and someone else will walk around the other side and we both stop and do our little COVID-19 tango as we try and maintain 6 feet between us. I’m getting extra exercise that way, but it’s awkward every single time. It will be nice to not have to zig-zag down the aisle like a football running back trying to avoid tackles on the way to a game-winning touchdown run.

And the other thing, as everyone is doing this, they all seem to have a look on their face that says “I am soooo tired of this.” I know I have that look on my face.

Extra eating

In a more classic New Year's goal, yes, I hope to lose some weight. I’ve stopped working out and I’m eating more because, well, there is just more binge-TV watching and time to snack.

Of course, the holidays, from the candy of Halloween all the way to the leftover black-eyed peas after New Year’s Day, are a time of extra eating, and I’ve indulged more than usual. In normal years there were more people at the get-togethers so I would stand there with a plate in my hand and talk and nibble. Now, with so few people at the nonexistent holiday parties, I’m just standing there eating by myself. It’s a lonely job, but somebody has to do it. I’ve even discovered there are less leftovers for the dog because of this.

Gathering round the water cooler again

I always sit and write my articles by myself, but I can only imagine what it must be like to try and be in a work environment these days. There must be a little paranoia at all times if you’re working with other people. In ’21 it will be nice when people can actually gather ‘round the water cooler again without worrying about getting sick. And I know some people in workplaces where one person came down with COVID-19 and everybody is keeping watch or trying to hide out for two weeks till the scare passes.

Sneaking a smooch

And finally, I’m thinking of the kids at school. It will be such a relief for them (or at least the teachers) to not have to worry about normal horseplay in the hallways. Think of the young Romeo and Juliet high school lovers who will be able to sneak a smooch when nobody’s looking. I’ve tried kissing with a mask on ... it ain’t the same. And all the remote learning will go away as we get back to the way it’s meant to be: teacher in front, kids in the seats.

As we move slowly but surely back to a regular world of handshakes and hugs, it will take a while for us to get used to it, but get used to it we will. We’re people, and people are all about people. For 2021 I say, “Masks off and smiles on!”

Mark Hannah, a Dalton native, works in video and film production.

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