The grocery parking lot is full. With the very last cart I’m winding my way through the packed aisles. Though Christmas songs fill the air, the mood is tense because it’s not a normal weekend. A snow storm is coming and people are in an apocalyptic frame of mind. It’s as if everyone has visions of being trapped in their homes for days on end, so they’re stocking up on essentials. One man’s cart is overflowing with frozen desserts. That family has stuffed a large Star Wars figure between their produce and canned goods. A lady fills her bag with a dozen yogurt cups.
In Chicago, I’m surprised by this pre-storm behavior. When it snows, we hardly miss a beat. Salt trucks have already mobilized so that our roads will stay clear. Sure, some merchants never shovel the sidewalk, but for the most part, we keep going all winter. Schools rarely close, we go to work, stores stay open. But, having grown up in a slightly milder climate, I admit, my first thought when a storm is coming is to check my fridge for milk, bread, and eggs. Sort of a winter survival kit (French toast for dinner!); that, and the ingredients to make a pot of soup.
I grew up in a neighborhood set on a hill. The roads leading in and out were steep, so slippery conditions were serious impediments. I fervently wished for snow each winter, but it was rarely more than a dusting. On the few occasions there was enough to actually cover the grass, we dashed out to make snowmen and go sledding. I remember making snow cream from some impossibly deep snow that drifted against our front porch to block the screen door. But I don’t remember any coordinated snow removal for the neighborhood streets, so we’d be homebound until it warmed up and the hills weren’t icy. We may have walked to the grocery, wrapped in scarves and hats (but with thoroughly inadequate boots), but there was no chance of taking out the car.
Parents might have called it cabin fever, but it seemed like a fun long weekend to the kids. Popcorn and TV, hot chocolate with marshmallows, listening to records and playing board games. We were warm and dry, and snow made the night seem bright.
The eight bags of groceries I brought home today belie our almost empty-nester status. With enough supplies to feed us for two weeks, I feel confident we’ll make it through the weekend. Unless the internet goes out.