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!