The Lockdown

Cautioned by news of the virus, we have been largely staying at home and watching spring unpack its belongings. The woods behind our house has arisen from sleep; gotten back into its green tunic. The branches and crannies of the trees are filling up with the songs of birds returning from their winter excursions to negotiate nesting rights and to settle former real estate disputes.

We have been limiting our trips to the grocery store, stocking up on those things with long shelf-lives, and only periodically going to the store for fresh foods.

When we do venture out we’ve gone in an almost clandestine manner.
Both of us being in a higher risk group and to limit our exposure to the world, our children, who would prefer that we didn’t leave our house at all and in a reversal of roles, call regularly to see what we might need as they go shopping themselves. As a result of their ‘picking up a few staples,’ terrific items that we would not necessarily buy ourselves have been added to the provisions they bring.

Our son brings, for example, along with practical items like milk, Mayonaise, bread, and eggs, items that are received with an inner and enthusiastic welcome; items that we – for our doctor’s sake – deny ourselves; items like potato chips, cans of ravioli, and containers of ranch and garlic dip.

Our daughters round out the practical items they purchase with exotic items like chocolates and hand-made pastries. A recently requested pound of margarine,  bag of oat bran, and box of detergent, arrived in the mixed company of spiced doughnuts, a jar of raspberry and fig jam, a container of hand sanitizer, and a bottle of chilled Prosecco.

Masked and thus disguised, in addition to grocery shopping, I’ve made utilitarian trips to the outside world. Our children know we need to run errands, but not as many as our house-project-busy lives have required. Without disclosing where I’ve gone, I’ve made frequent trips to the hardware store and Home Depot. With a sense of guilt – when asked by one of our kids how my day has gone – the trip to pick up lumber has silently crept down the back corridor of my mind. I make no mention of trips to the post office, the bank, and the pharmacy.

Waiting in the car or my truck with a book to read, Kathy, for ‘something to do’ outside the confines of our home, sometimes goes with me as I run these errands. Getting house paint recently required, after having waited my turn in an outside line, my checking in at a folding-table inside the entrance of a paint store before filling out an order form and then passing it to another masked individual behind a plastic screen. Once recorded, an appointment was made for me to pickup my order later in the day. When I returned to the car, Kathy, looking up from a book, remarked, “If they ask, you’re not going to tell the kids I was here with you are you?” I said “no” and “if you want to sneak out again later you can come back with me to pick up our paint this afternoon.”

A trip to the paint store suddenly had the feel of a nefarious rendezvous.

Yesterday, and very early at a grocery store, I unexpectedly ran into one of our youngest daughter’s best friends. Her friend not having recognized me in my mask, I realized later that had I not walked up to her and said ‘hello’ I could have made it out of the store without the risk of my daughter ever learning of my shopping.  She had called the night before and asked – since she was going shopping in the morning – if there was anything she could pick up for us. I lied and said, ‘Thanks, but we’re good with groceries.’

Arriving home I told Kathy that I had seen our daughter’s friend in the store. Kathy asked, “Did she see you?”

The morning – the afternoon passed. Dipping chips into our last of a carton of sweet onion dip, we waited.

Early evening arrived.

The phone rang.