“Is there anything you’re excited about today?” the little boy asked me, as we were drying ourselves off.

At our local pool, you have to sign up in advance for an allotted 50 minutes to swim laps. You’re supposed to keep your face covered unless you are in the water and you’re not supposed to talk to anyone on the pool deck. Luckily for me, no one had told the little boy about the no-talking part.

His question gave me pause. My swim has been the highlight of my day since shelter-in-place began so many months ago and my life became, as for most women I know, a lonesome loop of clean, cook, feed, replenish, clean. I hadn’t consciously thought of what else I was going to do that day but was pretty sure it involved monotony.

“Well,” my new friend said, answering his own question, “I don’t have anything especially exciting today. But this weekend, I’m going camping with my dad.”

“Camping. That sounds wonderful.”

“We’re going to make a fire and hike around the woods and sleep under the stars, and we won’t have to wear these,” he said, adjusting his cotton mask. He was eight, probably turning nine. “Though it’s okay, I’m used to it.”

I agreed, and fiddled with my own mask.

“Every day I try to do something exciting,” he continued, his eyes crinkling up in what I presumed was a grin. “Swimming in the pool is fun but it’s not exciting.”

“Different from ocean swimming, that’s for sure,” I said.

“It doesn’t always have to be something big, like camping,” the little boy said. “Just one thing that makes me feel excited. There’s always something. Today I guess it’s talking to you.”

My daughter had bought some ingredients to make new “craft cocktails.” I could look forward to those. And the next episode of Perry Mason was out. Our cherry tomatoes were getting ripe, and the cucumbers.

“Quarantine won’t last forever,” the little boy went on, pulling his arms through the straps of his backpack. “Might as well make the most of it.”

He waved goodbye and I resolved to find something exciting about every day during this endless time-out-of-time isolation, and after that too.

Before this awful pandemic, I took for granted being healthy enough to go swimming. Now it seems to me not only a privilege, but a divine miracle. Before, I would have taken for granted seeing the whole of this little boy’s angelic face, never in a million years envisioning a healthy kid wearing anything other than a snorkeling mask at the pool.

Children, like Labrador retrievers, remind us to be grateful. If we listen, they can teach us all we need to know.

Holly Hodder Eger is a seasonal resident of West Tisbury, and is the author of Split Rock: A Martha’s Vineyard Novel