Hey, whatever happened to waitin’ your turn
Doing it all by hand,
‘Cause when everything is handed to you
It’s only worth as much as the time put in
It all just seemed so good the way we had it
Back before everything became automatic

As we enter into our third week of self-isolation, sheltering in place, social distancing, whatever you want to call it, I think most of us are starting to understand that, for all of the amazing advances that have been made in the past thirty or forty years, there are always some unintended negative consequences for every advance. “What on earth do you mean by that?” you might say, as you order your needed supplies from Amazon or download the latest bestseller to your Kindle, all from the convenience of your iPhone. Who would go back to the way it was, for heaven’s sake?

Sometimes, I would.

One of the great pleasures in life for me used to be walking into a bookstore. Whether it was a big national chain or a small, locally owned place, the hours I would spend in there going down one rabbit hole after another and walking out with a pile of books brought me so much joy. Even now, despite the fact that I love my Kindle because it allows me to bring a whole collection of books with me in my bag without weighing it down, there is just nothing like holding the book, cracking the spine, turning the pages and reading a physical book.

The same goes for shopping, whether grocery or anything else. As so many of our “non-essential” businesses are closed, the opportunity to simply browse and touch and feel items before we buy them is taken away. Of course, many of these businesses were already in danger due to Amazon or other online giants who are able to offer the same or similar merchandise, delivered to your door, for a fraction of the price of the folks in the corner store, who pay local sales taxes and donate items or gift certificates for your high school band raffle, or your church barbecue’s silent auction.

One of the fun pleasures of these “shut in” times is sharing lunch and dinner every day with my husband. And when I say share, it’s not so much that we don’t normally cook for ourselves. We do, and we enjoy doing that together. Even if I’m the one who finds the recipe, shops for the ingredients, and sorts it all out, he usually sits at the counter and we share the high and low points of the day with each other while I experiment with whatever new and interesting recipe I have found. Our meals during this shutdown are slightly different. I don’t take the bounty of my local grocery store for granted. In some cases, I have to rely on more pedestrian ingredients that are available whether in the store or on my shelves already. And, in many cases, it’s back to basics. When I know I want to offer Dave his ultimate comfort food, I bring home the ingredients for an Old El Paso taco dinner. It’s not complicated. They aren’t the most exotic or innovative tacos I could make. But that taco dinner recipe tastes the same today as it did when his mother made it for him as his birthday dinner request. So, mine is not to question why. I make that, and I know that I’m satisfying something in his heart that even he doesn’t know he needs until he takes that first bite. Comfort.

I spoke with my mom tonight, as I do most nights during this time when she’s “sheltering in place” as one of the “vulnerable” during this pandemic. Her joys of the day? A handmade dinner delivered to her by my niece Ellie, who also changed some lightbulbs for her that were too high to reach. A handwritten note she received in the mail from my cousin Karen, offering her humor, encouragement and care. Not Facebook, not the latest pictures to her digital frame (although she does love those) and not FaceTime. A real-life meal made and delivered with love and care. A notecard with beautiful handwriting, beautiful sentiment, hand-addressed and stamped. Effort was made. Acts of love. Acts of care. Acts of service. Nothing electronic about it.

Back before everything became Automatic.

Who can you serve today? It doesn’t require much. We’ve become so accustomed to things being so easy, so automatic, that we’ve either forgotten or take for granted the impact of physical action and the personal touch.

As she has so many times in my life, my cousin Karen will lead my way. I’ll be writing some notes tomorrow and making my way to the post office to mail them. I’ll be thinking of how I can add some flair to some ordinary ingredients and yet let my husband know that I’m grateful for our life together and his appreciation of my effort. I’ll reach out to a friend on the phone instead of a text or Facebook response and reconnect. Live. With our voices and laughter.

Come on let’s take a picture, the kind you have to shake

One thought on “Automatic

  1. Kelly—I truly fear you missed your calling. Your writings connect. Something about this resonates. I’ve been happy in my simple life since this started. In some ways, I dread the return to normalcy. But I do want to return to normal! Such a strange way to put it—such a contradiction! Write on my friend!!

    Liked by 1 person

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