I feel good/I feel bad

I seem to be failing at most everything else, most everything else in my life these days being related to shopping.

I feel good about the way I pluck basil leaves so nicely, and blend them with pine nuts, garlic, salt and olive oil to form a sleek puree of pesto that complements an al dente spaghetti so gorgeously it’s like they’re soul mates. I’m confident also in my risottos, sausage and wild mushroom, and my lasagna, sandwich bread, and chocolate chip cookies have been turning out well. I’m a moderately responsible dog owner. I don’t let her run free on the road but keep her leashed until we are on the bridge between neighborhood and wilderness, with the door latched behind us, before releasing her. I releash her at the first sight of another walker down the trail.

I also drive pretty well. I didn’t hit the two women walking side by side in the middle of the road yesterday, although I wanted to. Most days I’m invited to call myself a Genius, thanks to the New York Times’ Spelling Bee. Most days these days, too, I’m generous and patient with my fellow Zoom or Google Meet participants, understanding that we’re all doing our best, even if our best still sometimes means, unaccountably, not grasping the elementary concept of MUTE/ UNMUTE. I’m happy that beautiful birds can make me happy! Each and every brilliant orange flash of an oriole across my yard feels like a gift that used to be invisible to my cloudy eyes. Finally, I drink coffee without spillage, except for that one dramatic accident on the first day of quarantine. Now I walk over that stain every time I enter and exit my office, a reminder of when everything turned upside down.

Which brings me to the other side of the COVID-19 coin. I seem to be failing at most everything else, most everything else in my life these days being related to shopping. On my one and only real excursion of the week, to the big grocery store, I walk up the down aisle and down the up aisle, quickly, hoping no one will catch me. I’m so eager to get in and get out I rush to the self check-out machines, poke frantically at the screen, and try to pack a week’s worth of groceries into one bag. I wear a respirator mask, which I thought was the right thing to do, but I heard someone else got bawled out outside the hardware store for wearing a respirator mask, so now I expect the same every time I go to the store.

The worst failure of spring 2020 so far combined shopping and parenting. In normal life, my oldest daughter’s greatest pleasure was an hour alone in Marshall’s, so yesterday I agreed to be a nice mommy and set her and my younger daughter loose in Target. An hour later, the older one returned to the car burdened with paper towels, clothes and prunes, but unburdened of a sister, so nice mommy went off-duty.

Last night it occurred to me that some Target security guard might have called his co-workers around to watch the YouTube-worthy surveillance video of me striding headlong up and down the halls of the store in my respirator mask like Darth Vader—dum, dum, dum, dum-da-dum, dum-da-dum—cursing ladies’ shoes, cursing swimsuits, cursing babies, cursing home goods. (My child finally materialized in front of pajamas, arms full of toys she would not be allowed to buy. Half-way home I did stop to buy the girls Snickers ice cream bars, in a pathetic attempt to make up for the messy cry-yelling fit I’d just indulged for thirty minutes.) Moral of the story: we will be ordering any and all summer essentials online for the time being.

Among homebound fails, I managed to kill a spider plant, three days after my friend had handed it over to me with the assurance, “Don’t worry. It’s impossible to kill these.” (Apparently, the spider plant’s kryptonite is a killing frost. Who knew?) I don’t believe those who say it’s been a bad morel year; I believe I’ve been a bad morel hunter. I’ve found only a measly handful, enough for one bowl of risotto. I see morels everywhere, but they are actually pinecones.

In the stupidest fail of all, I decided my husband and I deserved a night off from the kids to celebrate our 15thanniversary, so I suggested we let them stay on their own. I assumed the they’d strenuously object, but instead they packed our bags. So, putting our 13-year-old in charge and forbidding anyone to touch any appliances, we drove away and checked in at an inn just up the road, where we were the only guests.

What our romantic getaway successful? The tenor of the night can be summed up by the dream I had around four a.m. A monster under the bed grabbed ahold of my right index finger, and was reaching up to pull the rest of me under. My anxious crying woke us both up. We headed for home at daybreak, to find the three kids packed into our queen bed together. Moral of that story: Absence makes the pandemic’s demons come to life, as well as make the heart grow fonder.

But! This morning there are brilliant orange orioles flitting from tree to blooming tree in my backyard, and I haven’t done a thing yet to mess up that gorgeous state of affairs. Perhaps I can’t. Now if I just didn’t need to buy prunes to make dinner.