Today I drove an 80-mile loop doing necessary errands, through rural countryside and into our large retail district. The world I knew has changed in some eerie ways.
I mailed my father-in-law’s tax return from the post office where it could be weighed. At the counter hung a heavy clear plastic curtain between me and the postal clerk. I felt like an intruder when I reached my hand under it to operate the credit card machine.
I left my checkbook at home so I wouldn’t have to hand over pieces of paper that had been in my hot little hands. I simply packed my credit card and driver’s license in my back pocket, clipped my remote entry key on my belt loop and left the handbag at home. As I strolled briskly away from the post office I noticed how free it felt not to have a sack hanging on my left shoulder! That felt terrific! I could get used to this.
Next I went to my school. I traveled rural roads for half an hour and it felt–odd. Like an overcast Saturday lifted from November, after foliage season but before skiing opens. A dreary time when people are sitting at home, resigned to the onset of winter. This was not the spring-hopeful place I lived in just 13 days ago.
I pulled into the empty parking lot of school. Now that I know we are not coming back and that my Music program is about encouraging the community, I need my songbooks. I have nothing here. So there I went and when I walked into the building my heart sank in grief. It doesn’t have the clean school’s-out-for-summer feel; it has the sense that life here was brutally cut short. It is bereft. It weeps.
I culled what I needed from my room and packed it all in my car. I looked around at the room I left as it was on St. Patrick’s Day, thinking we’d be back in a few weeks. Boomwhackers scattered in the corner. Someone’s guitar leaning against the wall. Music Theory students’ quizzes on intervals stacked on their table. What is probably my second-to-last school year cut short this way. So many plans turned to dust.
I had a brief but slightly uncomfortable conversation with the office staff. We can never forget that we are each potentially contaminated with a deadly plague. I thought they’d be more comfortable with me gone. I did not linger.
The next stop completed a Buy Online, Pick Up Curbside transaction at Michael’s. At one of our family morale-boosting events this week or next I want to have everyone paint a small frame to hang together. So, I ordered supplies at home and they put the order together. When I arrived at Michael’s I saw a big cheerful sign, whose subtext read, “Don’t come any closer. Push the button and we’ll gingerly come to you at a safe distance.” I did and she did. She unlocked the massive glass doors and shoved them carefully aside just enough to stand in the gap. She entered my name in her gadget and then retreated, reversing the process. When she returned with the bag, she held it out at arm’s length so I could take it at arm’s length and then phew! the risky transaction was over. On to the next stop.
Grandpa, my 87 year old Father-in-law, needed things from Walmart and the grocery store. I parked far from the door, needing the exercise and just maybe wanting to distance myself from others. I was surprised at how many people were in the stores. Some had gloves or masks. I wore plastic gloves to put people at ease about those sweaty hands. Someday twenty years from now my kids will see a picture of people wearing gloves and face masks and go, “I remember that! That was the COVID pandemic!” It’ll be like big hair and shoulder pads–so dated.
It was at the grocery store when I realized the world had finally, if temporarily, adapted to my preferences. When I enter my shopping fog I want a big bubble around me and thanks to COVID, it is a whole 12 feet in diameter! How cool is that!
At Market Basket the kiosks have been removed so we can stand in self-isolation. There is a black line I was told to stand behind. It sounded…terse.
Finally home after all the running around. I feel weary from all the sadness. At first it was fun to drive around with my sunroof open (38 degrees and heater blowing) but about the time it started a cold rain I was done with the changes in town and ready to be in our castle with the bridge drawn up. When the rain turned to snow, it was icing on the dreary cake.
But…tomorrow I get to sing with my elementary students via Zoom for the first time! Can’t wait. That is a part of the new normal I could enjoy getting used to.