Butterscotch Lifesavers

In the evening, as dusk settles in, my daughter and I walk downtown to the corner store.

I’m looking for Lifesavers, a rare treat in our house. She asked if I would mind buying her Lifesavers on my way home from work. I’d forgotten her request in my hurry home.

At the corner store, we realize she’s forgotten her mask, so I go in alone and stand there, pondering the three Lifesaver options that store offers. What the heck, I think, aren’t there like a thousand flavors of Lifesavers?

Outside, I find her leaning against the store’s cement block wall, talking on her phone to her uncle, who’s called to find out how school’s going and what’s up in the realm of pandemic adolescence. She’s talking and smiling, glad to hear from him, spilling her happiness with her math class and driver’s ed, the two bright spots in what otherwise appears to a whole lot of chaos.

These days, my head feels jammed with a snarly chaos, with a stream of work and winter prep, a marathon-length school board meeting, and our first frost. As my daughter talks, I wander along the river, its bank piled with old tires. Oak trees spread over the water, their leaves still summer green. What a story, I think, this will be one day, for these kids who grew up in the pandemic’s shadow.

I slide the packs of Lifesavers into her jacket pocket, my small offering.