I’ve officially crossed the two-month mark of living—and eating all my meals—at home with my parents in Dallas. As is the case across Texas, restaurants here are allowed to open, but because my parents are in a high-risk group I don’t feel comfortable stepping into an establishment just yet.

So, still at home for the time being, we are constantly trying to think of ways to reinvent our eating experience and keep ourselves excited, even if it’s the third time this week that we’re eating dal chawal. One of the most successful ways we have done this is by leaning into our backyard.

We are very privileged to have a backyard, complete with patio furniture and a pool. I remember when we moved into this house in 2000—I felt like I had won the lottery when I saw that it had its own pool. These days, the ability to sit outside suddenly feels like an immense luxury, especially when I hear from my friends in Brooklyn that even walking around the block can be anxiety-inducing, given how densely packed the city is. And considering how nervous the pandemic has made me about enclosed spaces, the backyard somehow feels better even than the confines of our home. I don’t think I have ever spent as much time in our backyard in my life as I do now.

For happy hour, my mom and I now take our drinks to the creek behind our house, where just closing my eyes and listening to the ripple of the water makes me feel more at peace than anything else. I eat cut mango while dipping my feet into the pool. And it took a pandemic, but we finally dusted off the table outside so that we can enjoy at least a few meals a week there. The other night, my dad decided to gussy up the outdoor setup for a Saturday night dinner. He placed white tablecloths and candles over the tables for dining and for a makeshift minibar with whiskey and ice. He lit the citronella torches that haven’t been touched since last summer, and we put out our Thai takeout into serving platters. My mom set the mood with some instrumental guitar music. We could have been eating anything, and I would have been content.

The backyard also allows us to have a neighbor or two stop by to say hello at a distance, since they can enter from outside. When you’ve been living and hanging out exclusively with the same two people for more than two months, even if they are two people you love dearly, seeing another human being face-to-face (or at least with a mask on, at a six-foot-distance) feels like inhaling fresh mountain air.

Back in New York, the idea of private outdoor space feels laughable (unless you count my apartment building’s rooftop, which requires a treacherous climb up a ladder). Here in Dallas, I’ve even started taking some phone calls from the front lawn, just so I can sit in the grass and smell the fresh blooms from the trees. With that said, to all the Texans reading this: do not take any part of your outdoor space for granted if you have it! Now is the time to embrace it, and eat as many meals alfresco as you can, before the weather becomes punishingly hot. Aside from my parents, my backyard is what I’ll miss the most when I return to Brooklyn.