Late last night I heard the screen door slam,
And a big yellow taxi took away my old man….
by Joni Mitchell
I never appreciated how much I needed toilet paper until I got to the store and found the paper aisle shelves bare and Amazon only
offering weird looking rolls shipped from China. At this coronavirus moment in time, with images of bat meat sold in an open air market, utilizing such an intimate product from China doesn’t appeal. But I console myself. There’s always soap and water. Unless you run out of soap.
Fortunately, I have more bars of partially used soap than I can ever hope to go through. I have always taken pride in offering a fresh and decorative bar in the guest bathroom whenever we have guests – either overnight or just for the evening. When that group of guests departs, I recycle the piece into a plastic bag for future family use when looking pristine is not essential. To date, I have only reached into the stockpile once or twice. So for now, I am confident that long after I have run out of food, I will be able to keep my body clean. My dug well will continue to provide fresh mountain water for drinks and a bath. But what if the pump should fail?
I have provisions that should keep us safe for a month. I even bought powdered milk for when the fresh bottles run out. My freezer is filled with meat, vegetables, bread, and fruit. My husband even managed to fit in an ice cream container or two – not vital supplies of course, but an occasional treat is not bad to have during a quarantine. These items are safe to last a while – as long as the electricity doesn’t go out.
In this season of social distancing, we are staying closely connected. We call friends and family on FaceTime and have discovered the existence of Zoom for all sorts of group gatherings. My stalwart writers’ group is using this new platform to keep us creating and providing each other with the audience that any good poetry and prose require. My School Board held a public meeting remotely and had over fifty participants, surpassing by far its usual attendance. And my son in Virginia led my husband and me in New Hampshire, my daughter in California, and my brother and his family in Connecticut in a revived family rivalry: Trivial Pursuit. This matchup pitted our family against my brother’s. These intense encounters go back many years, though in a different setting and with altered team alignment. Three generations of blood relatives would gather in the main room after Thanksgiving for a men vs women recurring match. These contests were brutal, marked by all but bloodletting. And long-held grudges, famous blunders, and favorite questions make up colorful family lore.
Cable TV and movie channel subscriptions are filling my insatiable desire for storytelling content. Sandwiched in between two generations of actors – my mother and my daughter – films have always been a staple in my life. I am as happy watching old movies for the twentieth time as I am diligent about staying abreast of the best of the newly produced. The current trend of extended television series, both limited to one season or running consecutive ones, has greatly added to my repertoire. And when I get bored with fiction, there is always the news. I say this without any sense of irony whatsoever. While some decry the enemy of the people spreading fake news, I consider the brave correspondents who still roam the halls of Congress and fight for the slowly disappearing seats in a presidential briefing (AKA MAGA rally) to be among the heroes of the day. Just as are the health professionals and grocery clerks.
And then there’s the internet. Shopping, surfing for tips about life in the era of coronavirus, checking Facebook to see how others are weathering their constraints, or enlisting Siri to settle an argument is always a time-filler. Pandora for music and podcasts streams to my speakers via the invisible information highway. It’s how I play chess with my grandson in Virginia; how I bank; how I check my heart rhythms and read the New York Times. (Are those one and the same)? The internet brings cellphone coverage to my rural valley where the cell towers do not reach. It provides my email. And how else would I Zoom? But what if the electric grid goes down?
I sit tight in my secure abode and pretend that normal life will resume before too long. I am thankful for the public servants in our government who are trying to balance economic and physical health, who struggle to maintain essential services, and who are finding ways to keep our most basic needs met as we wait out the infection rates. I am thankful we live in a liberal democracy where we can reward those who do it well and remove those who don’t. I am thankful that an election (2020) is coming soon where those choices can be made to move forward in the most safe and productive way. I am thankful that some lawmakers are pursuing mandatory mail-in voting options so that our election can go forward without interruption, regardless of what stage of quarantine our society needs to impose next November. But what if…?