by Betsy Emdin, 04/15/2020, Traverse City, MI
In the last days of 1999, I was skeptical of the dire prophecies around Y2K. Bunk. Hokum. But, just in case, I did buy an extra bunch of bananas because I didn’t want to run out of this breakfast staple. The New Year arrived, computers kept running, grocery stores were stocked, and my skepticism was proved correct.
Bananas were my family’s favorite fruit. Every morning my dad sliced a banana over his corn flakes, and mom mashed one into her All-Bran. I inherited the tradition and banana is now essential to my shredded wheat or oatmeal. Breakfast is a personal ritual, cereal doctored with almonds, hemp seed, maybe some other fresh seasonal fruit, and the crucial banana. I linger over the meal with coffee, juice, and a magazine. It’s almost contemplative, and a soothing way to start the day.
COVID-19 is beyond the panic of the year 2000. It is real, it is happening, and can be deadly. Y2K passed in a moment. The clock struck midnight, and all was well. The virus has wrapped the world in an invisible shroud spiked in place by its namesake corona. An earthquake of sorts, but instead of the ground vibrating and collapsing, it is our atmosphere and existence. Our very breath. Quarantine was something that happened to 19th century storybook characters, or astronauts back from the moon, not us, not today.
Go out only for groceries. My larder is stocked with beans, legumes, and grains. There are canned goods in the cupboard, and vegetables in the freezer, but bananas must be fresh. At the start of the pandemic I bought a bunch at a health food store, and then and picked up a green bunch at the food co-op. Two weeks of security. Two weeks of my breakfast routine guaranteed. Stay-at-home orders continued. What if stores run out of bananas? The thought made me nervous. It’s risky to go from store to store. I love to grocery shop, but now it feels like trudging through a rattlesnake infested desert. My anxiety item is not toilet paper, but bananas. I run out. Will the store have them? I approach produce with trepidation, and there they are! I place a large bunch in my cart. Whew! I’m gleeful. Relief washes over me. I feel like I’ve kicked off a pair of tight shoes. A couple days later I pick up a prescription at Target where they also sell bananas and add to my stores.
But you can’t hoard bananas. Banana consumption determines the day until my next foray into a grocery store. Anxiety and availability will weigh on me again. A bit of a loner, I’ve managed to remain content through the crisis. I read, write, bake, knit, draw, walk the dog, and Zoom with others. I cherish my inviolable breakfast routine. I’m OK, but this cheap fruit, the banana, is sustenance beyond just the physical. It keeps me on my level path for I’d go bananas without bananas.