Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A Journal of the Plague Year, Part the Nineteenth - Before and After

I spent Friday driving down to Iowa, which is a strange thing to do in the middle of a lockdown but such is life.

Back on the 11th of March I asked on my Facebook feed, “Why does today feel like the ‘before’ photo in some future textbook?” and I have to say that I probably should have bought a lottery ticket as well because I pretty much nailed that one.  I’ve felt that before, that odd feeling like you’ve just tripped over something and your lower body knows what’s coming but your head hasn’t quite figured it out yet.  There has been a very large division this year between Before and After, and all of the plans and concerns of Before can seem rather remote at times.

I picked up Oliver from college in early March, when his spring break started.  We packed up a few things to get him through the next week or so before he returned to classes and headed back home. 

And then the bottom fell out of the world. 

On a very local level, that meant that Oliver’s classes were first postponed and then shifted online, and after a while the college asked us to come back (on a staggered basis to encourage social distancing) to collect all of the stuff that we had left in his dorm room.

It’s not a bad drive, really.  A bit less crowded than usual but probably not as much less as it ought to be.  And pretty socially distant from the outside world, sitting in the car as we were.  We made it there without any real issues and drove up to the front of the dorm.  His roommate was there as well, and the two of them set to packing things up while the parents stood outside by their cars a healthy distance apart from each other and passed the time conversing in a rather louder tone of voice than would have been the case two months ago.

We passed a lot of time.  Occasionally it snowed.

I’ve seen Oliver’s dorm room.  It’s about the size of my parents’ old dining room and significantly smaller than my living room now and I have NO IDEA how there could possibly be that much stuff in there.  Seriously.  It’s like the room unfolded into a different dimension – one full of closets and storage units and for all I know an entire mall.  I helped him move in back in August – a different room, granted, just down the hall, but the same basic size after all – and watching things come out by the dolly-load, one after the other, was an exercise in physics that far surpassed my meagre understanding of spatial dynamics.

Of course, I am an expert in getting a lot of stuff into a small space – I once packed my entire dorm room into a ’79 Mercury, including the stereo speakers back when speakers were things that the guys who built Stonehenge would have envied rather than things you dangled from wires and could stuff in your pocket, and I just about had room to squeeze into the driver's seat and head home.  So I suppose it should not have been surprising.

Eventually it all got packed away and off we went.

We hit the same place for dinner that we stopped at back in March – drive-through only now, which we ate in the car in the parking lot – and we stocked up on sauces since who knows when we’ll be back that way again.  You find yourself thinking that these days.

We made it back home safe and sound – a bit later than I thought it would be, but with surprisingly little fuss.  It’s probably the last real journey we’re going to make for a while unless you count trips to the grocery store or to feed the chickens.

Things change.  That’s how the universe is built.

Cherish the Befores, even through the Afters, and perhaps we’ll get to a better After That soon.

No comments: