The Flood: Grocery Store

Commemoration events are happening in Lyons and in Boulder County. To commemorate the flood in my own life, I am posting part of my flood story every day this week. This is the fifth of those posts. Here are the first, secondthird, and fourth.  I’m hoping to share some of the feelings I experienced. Down, up, and sideways. Posts aren’t in chronological order; these posts are about remembering. 

This is my story, but it is not one of significant difficulty or hardship. People are still experiencing extreme difficulty and hardship because of the flood. Please consider helping through a donation to Lyons Community Foundation.

The dogs go everywhere with me.

The dogs go everywhere with me.

I feel like a character in a Gary Larsen cartoon; perhaps a giant spotlight is shining on me, and a neon sign above my head  flashing “Frozen by Confusion! Disoriented! Not Able to Handle Simple Change!” I remind myself: My family is safe; I have a home, vehicles, work. I am lucky.

Since we began living in the campground, we’ve been eating out more than usual. Today my task is to go to the grocery store so that we can stop eating out so much. I take the dogs everywhere I go these days, so I load them in the back of the 4Runner, drive to the grocery store, and find a shady parking space.

I’ve never been in this grocery store; walking in, I am completely disoriented. I don’t know what to buy; I don’t know where anything is, or what makes sense for our life in the campground. I stand glued to one black linoleum tile for too long. We are normally a meat and potatoes family, but how can that work now? We need food that is easy, that will work in the mornings before school and as easy after-work dinners. The decision of which aisle to walk down is almost too much. “Why am I not at my normal grocery store?” I ask myself. Then I remember.

Out of habit I go to the produce section first, but paralysis hits. My normal go-to food for this time of year–spaghetti squash, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin–are unreasonable. I can’t roast anything for two hours. I realize I’m completely missing the harvest season. Last year we canned twenty-two pounds of green beans. It made forty-three quarts and friends laughed that I was going to have to eat a quart of green beans every week for a year. In reality, forty-three quarts lasted our family of five barely six months. We took great pleasure in eating “our green beans.” My aspirations were higher this year but now it is clear we aren’t going to be buying bushels of anything.

I leave the produce aisle with a bag of green apples, a bag of carrots, and a bag of red potatoes. Maybe we can find a grill for the potatoes? A jar of peanut butter will go with the apples and carrots.

I stand in the bread corner for a long time. We’ve been avoiding grains for over a year now, but bagels with peanut butter would be an easy before-school breakfast. At the same time, buying bagels feels like a dirty compromise; an accusatory part of me is loud in my head: Life gets a little difficult and you throw all your values to the wind, it says. That’s ridiculous, I tell myself, but I don’t feel better.

I look around the store for other people with a lost look in their eyes as they stare hopelessly at canned goods, wondering if they have a can opener. I feel completely out of control.

Which, I remind myself, is a basic error anyway, thinking that I have any control over the events of my life. If the flood hasn’t made that clear nothing will, and I should just buy the damn bagels and quit thinking about it. I grab a bag of raisin bagels and a bag of blueberry bagels from the lower shelf. That’s only twelve bagels; three girls and five school-morning breakfasts is fifteen bagels, but this will get us further in the week.

I can’t grocery shop anymore. I pay for my six items and leave, my indecisiveness and inability to do something simple like shop for groceries feeling like a major failure.

I let the dogs out of the back of the truck and we walk up and down the grassy patch next to the busy four-lane road. I am unfocused and confused, completely ungrounded. Adrift. The things I was thinking about and doing before the flood now seem completely irrelevant. I wish I knew how to drive a dump truck or operate heavy machinery. At this moment that seems to be the most useful skill to have.

I’ve never felt as disoriented as I did that day in the grocery store. My anchors washed away and a mundane task felt impossible. I was creating a life on the spot, with no advance planning. But before I could create that life, I had to admit that it was necessary. Huge change was happening; I had to catch up and be willing to change. But I wasn’t there yet.


One Response to "The Flood: Grocery Store"

  • ‘Huge change was happening; I had to catch up and be willing to change But I wasn’t there yet’ – what an idea, needing to catch up to our lives. This post makes me think of all the things I take for granted, say, in my weekly shop or how I plan our meals, etc.

    1 Melissa said this (2.22.2011 at 00:05)