Life Returns

I had forgotten how good EGGO waffles taste for breakfast. That’s one of many losses endured over the last year. It took our first trip to the grocery store in 54 weeks the other day to be able to wander around the shelves and aisles; that’s when I fully realized how limited it is to be relying upon Instacart.

The EGGO box caught my eye in the frozen food section. Thus began five idyllic mornings in a row of toasting, pouring real maple syrup and dabbing butter on the waffles and eating as slowly as possible while I lingered over a crossword puzzle.

It’s been a very long year, and the excursion to the grocery was one of those newly regained freedoms that have been made possible by our being vaccinated. Of course, we donned masks but were otherwise let loose to gawk again at all the goods. The occasional impulse buy seemed like scant reward for having been incredibly fastidious the past year in isolating ourselves and adhering to protective measures. Of course, during the shopping excursion I could not help but look with alarm at all the packaging, processing and junk food that was on offer. Some things do not change.

Nowadays, it seems enough just to get back a little of the way things were pre-pandemic. Like our family gathering at a birthday dinner Friday night– far more meaningful and satisfying than the Zoom session gathering we were confined to a year ago upon the same occasion. It’s been great being able to welcome the grandkids back into the house, sit at the table with them, play chess, watch TV, goof around and not worry.

I’ve been determined since the shutdown began in March of 2020 not to get complacent about life and work. I had lined up a lot of freelance writing and consulting and managed to get it all done without making site visits – just relying upon memory, my research library at home, Google Earth Pro, phone calls and, of course, a lot of Zoom.

Along the way I slept more than I had in years and dramatically reduced my sports viewing to create time for serious reading. It was nice to indulge the range of books that I did – it felt like being back in college. And I fulfilled a commitment to a dear colleague from my academic ties that we would write a book about politics, citizenship and the pandemic – which proved easier, I am now finding out, than finding a publisher for it. Much of my energy during 2020 was animated by my antipathy for a certain leading political figure who is no longer at center stage. The point of the book has been to explain how he got there and how what he advocated is not going to go away readily.

In retrospect, my wife, Jane, was right to store up basic household supplies well in advance of the impending shutdown. We (she) turned the dining room into a storage room. I stocked up at Staples with large plastic bins so we could keep our non-refrigerated food supplies at hand: one box for pastas and grains; another for canned good; a third for teas, coffee, spices and condiments; a fourth for crackers, cookies and snacks. Jane became even more of an expert in cooking soups and breads, some of which we stored in the downstairs freezer.

We have not once been in a restaurant all this time, nor will we go to one for the foreseeable future. There are just too many people out there who think the whole thing has been a hoax or who simply do not care about endangering the health of others. I suspect we will be dealing with this for a very long time.  

At home we’ve now moved those bins into a back hallway and reclaimed the dining room. The weather is good enough for us to indulge Jane’s penchant for gardening – and mine for using motorized yard equipment clearing invasives, reclaiming paths and creating new garden beds. The best sign of all that life is returning is that somehow, in our little backyard pond that froze over this winter, some 30 goldfish, six frogs and a dozen tad poles managed to survive. It’s a good measure of resilience.

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