There were many times when it felt like it might never happen. But here we are, days away from being allowed to hug our friends and family again. Just one, slightly inconvenient, question. Do we really want to hug all of them?
This is not about your weird uncle. It’s about the things most of us have accidentally learned about the people in our lives over the last year – things we were definitely happier not knowing.
Attitudes and adherence to the coronavirus rules have varied widely. If you’ve got through the lockdowns without being surprised or disappointed – if everyone you know has behaved as you expected them to or hoped they would – you are very lucky.
Fractured bonds with our nearest and dearest, only just beginning to mend after the Brexit divide, have been under pressure again.
Some think their friends or family members have been selfish, reckless, complacent. Or, at the other end of the scale, goody goody sticklers, rigid beyond common sense.
It’s like when you go on holiday with someone you love, and discover they leave unpleasant stains in the loo or don’t brush their teeth before bed, and you just think… I wish I didn’t know that about you.
It’s hard not to long for a simpler time, when how someone behaves in a global pandemic was the stuff of movies rather than a real-life potential relationship dealbreaker.
We’ve all had to work out where we draw the line.
Can we turn a blind eye to someone travelling home for Christmas when it was forbidden and dangerous to do so? Lying to fly away on a holiday?
How about having a sleepover? Being in more than one support bubble? Attending illegal gatherings? Throwing illegal gatherings?
How far can you accept the pushing, bending, exploiting of the restrictions put in place to protect us at a truly desperate time? We all accept that no one we know is perfect. I’m friends with people who hang their loo roll the wrong way, drink Earl Grey tea, like dogs.
But this isn’t as simple as disagreeing on tastes, preferences, the last episode of Line Of Duty.
These were life-saving rules. It’s hard for someone’s blasé attitude to them not to change how you feel about that person, not to make you think a bit less of them, even if you don’t want to.
Maybe just being back together, inside, in a way that is vaguely normal, will be enough to fix this, to make it just like old times.
Here’s hoping. After all, it’s been a long, hellish journey. Really, we’re just lucky we’re still here to be able to bite our lips, and put our arms around our loved ones again.
Well, most of them.