Last Sunday my mom and stepdad agreed to help a family friend clean out the home of his late father before it was sold. I came by to pick out a few things from the house to take and to help pack anything they needed packed. The house had had some flooding and there was mold so my son stayed in my car while my stepdad sat with him. From the house I was given a turn table, some pyrex, some linens, a ceramic Halloween pumpkin and an antique child’s rocking chair.
I’ve only left the house to do the grocery shopping, and that is its own adventure. The empty grocery store shelves in many parts of the country have reached the media. People are talking about a revival of growing victory gardens[i], about how to stock a pantry [ii] and how to freeze just about anything. [iii]
“During World War II, Americans tended victory gardens, needing both fresh food and a sense of participating in a national cause. The return to the kitchen has underscored the differences among America’s cooks. City dwellers with small kitchens who are used to regular shopping or who cook only when the urge strikes have vastly different skills than Americans used to cooking from a large pantry that is kept stocked with monthly runs to a big-box store. Many Americans, especially in rural communities, already know how to stock and cook every day from a pantry of shelf-stable ingredients.
In Weatherford, Okla., a college town of about 15,000, people are used to driving a half-hour or more to a grocery store and stocking up for a week or two. So far, the shelves haven’t been stripped. And a lot of people have a ton of meat in their freezer. There is no one in rural Oklahoma that doesn’t have more than one freezer. Still, concern about provisions is setting in, particularly among the many there who farm for a living and know that any disruption in government certifications or inspections for grain or cattle could mean empty store shelves later on.
‘A trip to the grocery store can be a somber exercise. At the Whole Foods Market in Glendale, Calif., all the chicken had been snatched up. There’s no more Cheerios, no more beans, no more spaghetti. When selection is limited and many people can’t go shopping, even the most adept cook can be challenged. [iv]
There are changes within the stores themselves. Mariano’s and Jewel, for example, say they are more frequently sanitizing bathrooms, self-checkouts, food service counters and other commonly used areas more often, plus wiping down shopping charts and baskets. Employees have been asked to stay home if they or someone in their household are sick and the companies said they will financially support employees who may be affected.”[v]
A sign on the door warned 100 customers would be allowed inside at a time. There were paper towels and disinfectant spray near the shopping baskets, and yellow masking tape near checkout registers reminded shoppers how far apart to stand.[vi] Some stores have reduced hours of operation so they can restock the shelves and clean the stores. Other stores have offered early morning hours just for seniors to shop so they can avoid the crowds.
I talk so much about food because it is the primary way that I have been impacted so far. But that is bound to change. I’ve been delivering Ziploc bags with quilting fabric to people who want to sew fabric face masks for health care workers. There aren’t enough masks so the idea is to sew face masks from cloth to prolong the life of the medical masks. I’m not sure if they work at all, but I’m happy to give away all my extra quilt fabric if other people are willing to make them. There’s now talk about everyone wearing masks every time they leave the house, and I’ve seen more than a few people doing that at the grocery stores. The CDC advice is to only wear a mask if you have symptoms, and I don’t, so I’m not wearing a mask. They really don’t protect you, since the fabric can’t filter out a virus from the air.
There has also been discussions of utility workers sleeping at the job sites, because the risk to the workers increases if they go home each night[vii] . I’m afraid that Mark will get swept up in that policy, and then I won’t see him for a week or more at a stretch. I’d be at home alone with my son, and have no way to shop or leave unless I take him with me, something I’ve been able to avoid so far.
My son misses his school friends and his teachers, he wants to go out to the library or the museum or the playground, things he was always able to do before. I know he’s tired of being cooped up in the house, and quite sick of me.
As for me, I find it harder to be a stay at home mom, and also do my job. My world has gotten very small. Being a stay at home mom was never the life I wanted, but even so, it would be easier to be a full time mom than this worst of both worlds scenario. I feel like I’m not doing either job very well. They just told us that current stay at home order would last through April 30, with predictions that it could continue afterward. It seems a very long time to stay at home when I really want to be out there doing something more concrete. But I can’t do anything but sit at home while people are dying.