Terraces are open, baby
Just like a lot of students living abroad, I came back to Luxembourg to be with my family over Easter. It was a surprisingly pleasant and peaceful time, despite the fact that “Easter is the worst holiday because we don’t get any presents” (as my 13 year-old brother shamelessly stated). Because of the pandemic, we all appreciated being together, in good health - and grateful to have each other.
So that was nice, but what everyone really cared about was the long-awaited and crucial announcement: terraces are open, baby. A few days before my arrival I was already flooded with messages urging me to rush to come back.
In the Netherlands, just like in most of Europe, every public meeting place has been closed since autumn. I don’t remember the last time I had a drink in a bar, so I must say that this unexpected news delighted me. I was excited to sit at a table with a drink in my hand and chat with my friends, like a normal person.
The experience, of course, was not as exciting as I expected it to be. Although expectation is perhaps too strong, because at this point I’ve pretty much given up hope the pandemic will end at all. Sensationalist media coverage and updates about lockdowns are coming out every hour of the day, so it is hard not to lose your mind and know what is really going on. But part of me imagined people running around with beers, crying out each other’s names and falling into each other’s arms like war veterans. Or plague survivors.
The days preceding the glorious 7th of April when terraces would reopen reflected how we’ve all felt for past few months: rain in the morning, a hopeful midday sun, a short-lived cheeky rainbow, then heavy depressing snow, unexpected hail, rain, snow, sun again, snow, rain, sun.
With each change in the weather came more irritation, restlessness and fear: that we might not be able to go after all. But everyone was way too determined to give up. And so there we were, a bunch of people in their early 20s, in our best clothes, sitting on a terrace in the snow at 3 pm in April. What a scene.
As soon as I appeared at the horizon at Hamilius, my friends frantically started waving and pointing at each other’s faces, signalling for me to wear a mask as I approached the table. One small mistake could have cost us our reservation.
The whole thing was a bit of an anticlimax and the quiet atmosphere slightly reminded me of school - everyone was separated in pairs and waiters watched whether we were not moving closer to each other, just like teachers. Nobody was running around, nobody was noisy. Some of us were weirdly silent, others annoyingly talkative (guilty). Just like during any other social event during the pandemic - it was just not it. It’s just hard to have fun in the midst of a plague. In the end, I wasn’t sure we were all shaking from cold rather than excitement. So perhaps it was a good thing that everything closed at 6 pm.
But now, a week later, I am glad I went. It was not an extraordinary meeting with tears of joy and laughter. It wasn’t a party. The past long months of isolation and self-reflection have put things into perspective. Having a drink outside is no longer something that excites us as much as it used to in the past.
But everyone seemed grateful to see each other again and we were unusually kind to one another. This may not be a full liberation, but it’s good to be able to do simple things again - a lunch with your partner, a drink with your friend.