“Hope” is the thing with feathers-That perches in the soul-And sings the tune without the words-And never stops-at all. Emily Dickinson
By Gerry Roe
In January 2020 my niece, Betsy Cross Thorpe sent me a podcast of genealogist Amy Johnson and her weekly writing prompts. She thought it might be fun for us to join in on the prompts and write a record of our family genealogy. I was delighted with the prospects of sharing some of stories about our colorful family members.
From the beginning I intended that my post for the prompt Long Line would emphasize the military people in my family, but today while taking my daily five mile walk with my husband Paul a new thought took form. I thought about my early morning experience at the grocery store. I said good-bye to my idea of writing about the long line of military people in my family and said hello to the long line at my favorite grocery story. CourtesyCOVID-19!
I shop at Winco, in Springfield Oregon. Due to the COVID-19 crisis Winco started opening their doors early for seniors. This was so they could shop away from the crowds. I sure don’t feel like a senior but I am one and that’s when I shop. Today, I arrived early mask and sanitizer in hand to find a long line already forming outside the door. Stripes on the side walk keep shoppers socially distanced. Only a certain number of shoppers are allowed in store at a time. One shopper comes out. One goes in. My turn came, the basket was wiped down before given to me. Off I went, list in hand. Following the arrows, I went down the aisles. Most people complied with the plan. Wow! Shelves were stripped of items. Not just toilet paper missing today but beans, rice, sugar and flour. Multiple carts piled high with supplies standing in another long line to check out. One employee directed shoppers to the check out stand. I looked around to see most every one patiently waiting their turn; suddenly a shopper with a full load blasted through to the open check stand. This was before anyone could stop him. Everyone, including the employee directing us just smiled and shook their heads. No outburst. That was good, no one seemed outraged.
As I waited my turn to check out, again socially distancing. I thought of my parents during the Great Depression. The ration books they were given to purchase items. They did not have the choices I had at my shopping spree. If an item on my list was out of stock I could substitute with any item of my choice.
Not so for my mother, Ruby Isaacs Roe, during the depression when items like sugar, coffee, meat, fish, butter, eggs and cheese were rationed in part to prevent hoarding as the nation prepared to go to war. How different it was for her, shopping with a ration book. I have unlimited buying choices during this COVID-19 pandemic.
I can recall another time when long lines affected my family. It was in 1973 and this time the long lines were at the gas pump. They were caused by a gas shortage. In Oregon where I lived, the day you could purchase gas was determined by the last number on your license plate. If your plate ended in zero, two, four, six or eight , you were allowed to purchased gas on even numbered days of the month, if it ended in one, three, five, seven or nine you could buy on odd days of the month. Gas was rationed to ten gallons per customer.
My husband was ill at this time and our son was only a toddler, and I was working as a nurse at McKenzie-Willamette Hospital. My father, Henry David Roe brought gas cans full of gas to me. He sat for hours in a long line waiting his turn to at the pump. He gave me the gift of time, a great blessing during that time of need.
Today, while I wait in line at the store, I realize that my grocery list is even more valuable to me today. I check it more carefully as I go down each aisle. I believe I have always been a patient person but find myself even more so during this time. I see people I have walked by on the path for years that now make eye contact and saying good morning. These are only a few of the good things I hope to hang on to when we return to what was normal.
But not the long lines at the grocery store. I will be happy to see them go away.
We survived those long lines and we as American’s will survive these long lines.