She grabs her purse and rummages through it, checking for the essentials: phone, wallet, keys, mask, hand sanitizer. Two large eyes stare up at her, excited. “Sorry, Marley. Nothing exciting, just gotta run some errands.” She checks the clock above the stove and wonders how busy the store will be on a Saturday evening. Grocery shopping used to be such a predictable outing, almost a science. Sometimes it was even enjoyable. Now she is filled with the same low-level anxiety that has been buzzing within her for the past…three, four, how many months? Grabbing the shopping list from the counter she heads to the car, after brief goodbyes to her family, and a reminder to take the dog for a walk. As she drives, her mind turns to the fall, to school, to all of the unknowns. Her kids seem restless and she wonders if all of this fuss is worth it… If only we knew what to expect in the coming months. She knows her family is very fortunate: to have a steady income, to be healthy. To have wi-fi for online schooling and an emergency fund if things get worse. She tries to focus on the gratitude, to push away the anxiety and frustration. She needs to be strong and level-headed, if not for herself, at least for the sake of her kids. As she pulls into the parking lot she sees a masked elderly man pushing his grocery-laden cart to his car and she thinks about her parents, making a mental note to call them soon. Her fingers hook the elastic ends of the mask around her ears and she glances at her reflection in the rearview. “At least I remembered to put on mascara today,” she thinks to herself. After wiping the handle of the cart she zips through the store, following the arrows on the ground, keeping her distance from the workers stocking the shelves, picking things up along the way, consulting her list as she goes. Thankfully it’s a pretty quiet and she makes another mental note: Saturday evening is a good time for grocery shopping. Most of the items are simple enough, potato salad, English muffins, peppers, oregano. They don’t have cherry pie – her daughter will be disappointed. Down the dairy aisle she compares the ice cream options and grabs a package of provolone. She sighs, realizing this is going to be another expensive trip. Nothing seems to be on sale these days. “Just the eggs, back to the drink aisle to get the ones I missed, and then checkout.” She sets her list down as she inspects three cartons of eggs for cracks. Her mind wanders to her son and she vaguely wonders how many cartons of eggs they’ll be buying when he hits his teenage growth spurts. When will his sports teams resume practices? He’ll need new cleats soon, he’s been growing so much. Will he be able to try those on in the store? She walks off to the drink aisle, distracted, tired, and ready to head home.
(This is a short fictional story based on this handwritten list I found perched on the egg cartons when I was grocery shopping yesterday evening.)