Perhaps I was counting too much on the relief being vaccinated would bring.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful to science and the tens of thousands who researched, developed, and called out the army to get me that shot. But all those teary, dreamy “I’ve got it” posts had me feeling like the whole pandemic might drop off my shoulders as my body learned to fight off those little Covid spikes. This is the reason it’s better if I’m not on Facebook much.

Of course the vaccine is a relief, a huge one. But our family’s pandemic life is almost exactly where it had been before. I don’t really know if I’d be ready for Chuck E Cheese, even if my 4th grader hadn’t outgrown that over the lockdown. Eating inside? Meeting people in person? I need some time to adjust first.

So I’m doing what I do best: planning! Can’t cope with going anywhere now? Research travel we will do when… we’re ready. Whenever that will be.

One of our first priorities is getting to Austin; this July will mark a year since my dad’s passing, and the last time I saw him was February 2020. Not being able to be with family for grieving, or a memorial, has been hard. Jaden is especially vocal that he wants to see Grandma and his uncle and aunt. I have no idea what we will do about a memorial or the many things that probably need to be done, but it’s time to start thinking about it.

We decided we’d go when we can. But as soon as I started looking for a hotel for our theoretical stay, I realize I don’t want things to be the same after-Covid. Life is short, and there are things we should do because we want to, because it’s best for us. Even if people don’t like it. I don’t know how I’m going to break this news to my family, but we are going to stay in a hotel… downtown.

If you know or have heard of the new Austin, this probably sounds fun and noncontroversial; downtown Austin is happening, with skyscraper apartments and hotels and food and nightlife. The river snakes through town (Lady Bird Lake, you’re supposed to call it) and one of the downtown bridges is home to the largest bat colony in the world, so time it right and you can watch a million fruit bats file out of their bridge-cave and fly out into the hill country to eat bugs. (There will be plenty for them to share.)

But if you grew up there or know any Austin oldtimers, you know that telling someone who lives out on the edges that you might like to go peek downtown, maybe eat somewhere there, will get you about the same reaction as suggesting we try devil worship, or sign up for rattlesnake taming. Horror and shock. Do you know about the traffic? The one-way streets? The skyscrapers with neon on top? Have you seen downtown, it’s unrecognizable. Do not go there! Like the New York City of my childhood dreams, every wicked thing might happen in downtown Austin.

Were my father still with us, he’d lead this chorus. But I suspect the rest of my family will similarly feel there’s something not quite right about us choosing the traffic and crowds that symbolize everything wrong with the place. I guess it’s why we’re Californians. But I’m looking forward to my highrise view of the bats. Somewhere deep down, some previous incarnation of my dad would have thought as weird as it is, it also sounds cool.