Where We Are

On a gorgeous Friday afternoon, my 15-year-old and I are outside the Vermont Department of Libraries, to pick up a sneeze guard and hand sanitizer for my library. The building’s locked (of course), but we’re allowed into the vestibule of this beautiful building that once was the town’s high school.

The Department’s employee who helps us is like all the state library’s employees — utterly helpful — and a bag of children’s books has been included, too, to add to my library collection or give away. I imagine on the employee job application is a box — Are you a decent person?

There’s been some snafus in the pickup, and I’ve been texting the woman who arranged for these free drop-offs around the state. By then, my daughter and I are at our next errand. She’s in the driver’s seat, and we’re in the parking lot of a wood stove store.

The woman apologies for the confusion, and I text back not to worry. She writes that elevator problems were not in the plan. Then, laughing, I text that 2020 and Covid were doubtlessly not in her plans, either.

Haha, she writes back, nor were distributing sneeze guards and hand sanitizer in my career plans, either.

While I’m laughing and texting, my daughter has cracked open one of the half-gallon bottles of sanitizer and says, Hey, this is the good stuff!

The July day is stunning beautiful — not too hot, but the perfect day for swimming. There’s plenty of good things I’m happy about this day: I’m employed. I’m (nearly) finished with another draft of my book and about to hand that in. My 15-year-old is ecstatic to have the car keys in her hand.

Here’s what’s also happening.

I’m in this parking lot because I’m looking to solve a chimney problem in my house and heat again with wood. In the early mornings, reading the news, like so many other people, I worry about the country descending into chaos. My 21-year-old reads the same news and asks me what it means. What’s happening?

Like everyone else, I don’t know. I’ve never lived through times like these. But I do know human history is filled with times of uncertainty and movement and hardship. I’m doing everything I can to get us through the winter, as best as possible.

Part of getting through the winter is loving these summer days now, knitting deeper the ties around me — and that includes these bits of texting with a woman I haven’t yet met. The levity doesn’t diminish what’s happening, but collectively lightens the load. My daughter, rubbing that great sanitizer into her palms, asks if I’m going to laugh and text all afternoon. I might.

You’re rocking the distribution of plexiglass, I write.

She answers me, Thank you!

Then I put on my mask and head into the store.

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