Sow There! The view from another side of the sanitizing hand-wipe, 3-20-2020

March 20, 2020

My mom delivered an amazing array of seed packets this week – spinach, stringless beans, peas and other cool-season dandies that are ready to be poked into damp soil.

She made the delivery to my doorstep, then promptly back-stepped 20 feet toward her car.

Coronavirus care package.

I am confident I do not have the virus, but you never know. I recently traveled through three airports from Washington, D.C.

I’m that person who should not be out in public, at least for 4-14 days.

Inside the mombox I found protein shakes, steel-cut oats, toilet paper, tuna, soup and Indian food packaged in mylar.

This was unnecessary, I insisted before she made the 1 ¼-hour trip. Even without a proper inventory of my cupboards, I knew I had four rolls of toilet paper, eight cauliflower pizzas and enough chocolate to maintain my current weight from now until Halloween.

Yet, we all know how moms can be. They can be pushy. They often surprise us with a flood of love.

Back when it was early March, our group of 22 international Fulbright participants* left Chico for the nation’s capital. My main concern was packing my bags, not the pantry. I knew I was going to miss these new friends, and the ache felt like the beat of a Mongolian drum.

Our group flew east on Southwest, armed with hand-sanitizer and what may have been the last shipment of anti-bacterial wipes. We practiced greeting others by touching toes and tapping heels. Of course, the virus was a big problem in other countries, but it still seemed far away from Butte County.

In D.C. we lingered, holding tight to the end of our summer camp friendships. The cherries along the Potomac were at the earliest stages of bloom. One night we skipped across the green parkway toward the Washington Monument, the landmark aglow with floodlights, American flags fwapping in a light breeze. We saw many other small and large groups, seeing the night sights.

During the day, we attended educational seminars and began to say a drawn-out series of tear-filled goodbyes. There was zero time for museums.

Then, everything changed. The borders were closing. Flights were rerouted, some within 20 minutes of a bus ride to the airport. The president made a speech, my 401K dropped by 17 percent and everyone back home was hoarding toilet paper.

When I arrived in Chico, I sat in the dim light of my living room, suitcase still packed, checking for updates from my international friends, who are all teachers. One woman was sad she decided not to sleep next to her young son, who had missed her for six weeks. She wanted to protect him from all unknowns. In some towns, city streets were empty, except for military vehicles. A few travelers are still trying to reach home.

Back in Chico, I read about “flattening the curve,”, virus surge and closing of international borders.

I read about seemingly-healthy people in our country who could be witless spreaders of disease. People like me.

The news reports varied, but the shortage of medial respirators clanked around in my mind. My parents are in their early 70s. I shut my front door and made sure I had enough clean pajamas to wear for two weeks.

Now what?

In the computer age, a lot of us can work from home. My mom had delivered toilet paper, needed or not. My remaining dilemma was solved when Richard ventured to the store for supplies, and delivered chocolate chip ice cream to my driveway.

Living alone has its drawbacks, but staying alone means I don’t have to worry about infecting someone I love.

And then, there are the seeds. I owe my mother many apologies, and she may even have a list.

On a dormant winter night, my mother and I had made a pact to buy exotic seeds and swap. I made fun of her when she delayed her purchase.

When I opened the precautionary coronavirus care package, I found the seeds. She had carefully transferred the name and planting instructions onto small plastic bags containing treasures.

Mom: I love you and I should have known that you always come through.

Wednesday, wearing my pajamas and hiking boots, I pulled weeds and planted purple beans, Delicata squash and cool-season peas. Some of these grow quickly, and I might need fresh veggies if some worst-case scenarios arise.

I hope all of the traveling teachers will also have time to unwind before they plant seeds in the minds of their students.

In the meantime, I’m having trouble keeping track of my blessings.

  •  The Fulbright program at Chico State is funded through the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State and International Research & Exchanges, administered by Chico State.
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