April 08, 2020

No chatting in the aisles

Bunny cake

Normally, I’d be busy this week: teaching my classes, going to meetings, and preparing for Easter dinner. Usually, I complain that the timing of Easter is inconvenient, falling during a hectic time of the semester. Each year, I try to get the grocery shopping done by Thursday if out-of-town family is arriving on Friday, and that means shopping on Wednesday afternoon since Thursday is a long day on campus.

But here’s something I’ve discovered during this pandemic: I complain about the busyness every year, but now I'm missing that busyness. I'm sad that I won't be going to the grocery store today.

I’ve shopped at the same grocery store my entire adult life, and during holiday shopping, I run into high school friends home to visit their families. Often the friend is clutching a list of items written in a shaky scrawl. “My mother wants artichoke hearts,” he’ll say, after giving me a hug and showing me smart phone photos of the newest grandchild. “Any idea where I can find them?”

The produce section is always crowded with old women, who don’t trust anyone else to choose their vegetables. I’ve heard many a spirited discussion over how to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe. (Some swear by the sound you hear when you thump on the cantaloupe, while others say you have to hold the fruit close to your nose and smell it. Either method seems horrifying during a pandemic.) Our carts are always fuller than usual. Before a holiday, for instance, I buy twenty pounds of potatoes; I’ve got a big family.

Holiday shopping takes longer than usual as shoppers circle back for specialty items they forgot or search for something they only buy once a year, which means it’s been moved from one shelf to some other place in the store. But we call out greetings to each other, we get into conversations while we wait in line at the deli, and we hug friends. We help each other find a bottle of molasses for the baked beans Dad wants or the pitted olives for Mom’s special tortellini salad. The store is filled with the energy of anticipation. Our loved ones are coming home, and we want plenty of food in the house.

I miss that ritual. I haven’t been to the grocery store in a month: my son-in-law has twice delivered groceries to our front step, and I’m grateful that our house is stocked with everything we might need. I know how very privileged we are. But still, it feels wrong not to be shopping for Easter.

The photo is the Easter bunny cake my mother usually makes. No bunny cake this year!


Cindy said...

Holidays are going to be different this year, for sure.

Roderick Robinson said...

No hugging in our groceries - which we tend to call supermarkets. Were you to do so (Hey subjunctive! Where you bin in these troublous times?) the security guys would club the pair of you apart with their nightsticks.

You know how things looked in East Germany in the fifties? Of course you don't, you're far too young. I'll fill you in: wide boulevards with three Trabants belching black smoke, queues (You call them lines) to encircle the globe, faces with distracted looks, neighbours ratting on neighbours. Britain is trying to re-create that look, perhaps to supply cheap background shots for movies based on retro-le Carré novels.

In fact, that was yesterday's story. Things move quickly in our Plaguey times; on Monday three was the most you could buy of anything, including liquor. Today, Maundy Thursday, (The day I used to do crits on St Matthew Passion back in my newspaper days) you may buy enough gin to stomach watching YouTube videos of DT lying his head off to the world. Tomorrow, total oblivion I guess.

And yesterday was the UK's record for Plague-related deaths. Tomorrow we'll probably beat that... May one joke a little in the face of The Plague? I feel one must.

Tinned artichoke hearts? Tell Mother to wait until June when you can buy them fresh and whole off the shelves, direct from Peru. California in your case.

BrightenedBoy said...

It's amazing how much you miss the nuisances, isn't it? I was under quarantine for two weeks and thought it would be this awesome holiday of books and movies. You've never seen someone so eager to get back to work.

Hope you're doing everything you can stay festive amidst all the disruption.

DJan said...

I never did much at Easter, but now I'm missing the holiday season ahead, since it's impossible to do anything but turn on the TV or queue something up on my iPad and passively watch the world go by. I feel fortunate to have a home, a warm bed with my partner beside me, and enough food. There are so many in our country who don't have any of that. :-(

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Hopefully, in one, two or five years we will be able to look back upon the Easter of 2020 like a horror film we once endured. And everything will have returned to "normal". That is my dream nowadays. And you have reminded me that I need to buy my wife a chocolate Easter egg.

robin andrea said...

With our sheltering in place here, our trips to the grocery story have become our only place of social interactions. We are having delightful conversations with the cashiers who are smartly protected from us with a big sheet of plastic at the counter. Well, I'm thinking they're delightful conversations. It really is hard to understand each other with all the mask protections and fogged up glasses. Take care there.

Jeanie said...

I miss the grocery store, too. I usually do the bigger shop early in the week but by the weekend have gone back once or twice, usually for fresh things or something I decided to add into the menu. I know the names of the cashiers and other workers and it's right in the neighborhood. Now that we are going to delivery, I will especially miss knowing that we are supporting them, but they don't do delivery or pick up.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I miss picking out my own fruit and fresh vegetables...now a stranger does it. No jelly beans this year either...I always buy them at Easter:)

Zhoen said...


Tie-Dye Brother-in-law said...

Drat! I *knew* I had seen this recently. I wanted to post it on your mother's FB page to wish her "Happy Easter". I told Red-haired Sister I had just seen it, and asked if she had seen it; I was checking through all your FB photos, her photos, Urban Sophisticate Sister's photos, Schoolteacher Niece and Red-haired Niece's photos, and my news feed, and came up short.

Finally gave up and posted something else. And *now* I see where I had seen it.

Joyful said...

I understand missing what you usually do at Easter with all the shopping and busyness. I think when all this is over (and I hope it's sooner) that we will better appreciate all that was. It is hard for a hugger when they cannot hug. I'm in the same boat but am glad to stay home and keep safe. All the best to you and your household during this time of self isolation.