In the grocery store checkout line — six feet at least apart from everyone — the man in front of me starts in on a rant about Boeing and the proposed bailout. I set down the gallon vinegar and my bag of purchases I’m sure our family utterly needs in a pandemic, like masa harina, and assure the stranger I’m with him.

In this utterly strange world — far apart but suddenly socially unleashed — I ask him question after question. A Vietnam Vet, he and his wife are sewing masks for medical workers. He raises a cardboard box of wire ties the grocery store donated to aid their efforts.

I don’t know if those masks will impede the virus or not. I’ll probably never see this stranger again, who lifted the box just before he left, while I cheered him on and thanked him.

Yes, it snowed nine inches in Vermont. Yes, we’re under a Stay Home order, the governor’s distinctively less-alarmist version of shelter-in-place with your arms over your head. Yes, the governor’s on the radio every day, assuring Vermonters we will endure. And, yes, this, too, will pass.

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.

Eleanor Roosevelt


After School Snacks

My 14-year-old meets me at the coffee shop in town on her way home from school. I close up my laptop and clear the table of my papers. She sits in the window drinking hot chocolate and talks and talks.

She’s making a phone call that afternoon with a stranger for a program reference, and I see she’s been thinking about that phone call all day. She’s not someone who likes talking on the phone. And to someone she doesn’t know?

In a complete non sequitur, she lifts the gingerbread cookie she’s eating and says that’s exactly the kind of cookie she wants to bake.

Looking at her, I marvel at how she’s all teen — both worrying and taking pleasure in that worrying — in a this is my thing, my life, what I’m doing kind of way.

Her grandparents have a sent her a small box with a card. When she lifts the lid, the box opens into a pop-up Christmas tree, and she laughs and laughs.

A group of teenagers come in the door, stomping snow from their boots. The barista says, Here’s the future.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Eleanor Roosevelt