Bagels and Brevity

“Do you know how there are moments when the world moves so slowly you can feel your bones shifting, your mind tumbling? When you think that no matter what happens to you for the rest of your life, you will remember every last detail of that one minute forever?” ― Jodi Picoult

Thursday, March 14th. I went to Panera in Florham Park, New Jersey to get bagels. My mom had sent me a gift card and I suspected we’d be home for a few weeks given the recently declared pandemic. Nothing had been canceled yet, but the panic was rising and the anxiety was palpable. My oldest daughter was at school until 1 p.m. so I decided to treat her sister to a quick lunch before our pickup duties commenced. We found a table that was tucked in a corner and separate from the crowded lunch scene, which surprised and overwhelmed me. Thinking back, my fear had arrived.

While we waited for our food I heard my name and glanced up to see a familiar face. Bri was a friend of a friend and last year our daughters had dance class together. We had bonded over our second borns, wild spirits with an appetite for adventure, and I knew her to be kind and joyful. On the spot we decided to lunch with our littles in tow.

We kept it surface level in conversation, but we did discuss the inevitable closing of schools, the curiosity surrounding distance learning, the pressures of balancing it all, and the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. In retrospect, our conversation echoed the the nation’s at that point in time. It was speculative, overwhelmingly vague, but filled with an intuitive acknowledgement of societal shifts.

Thirty minutes later we said goodbye. It would my last friend conversation sans social distancing or Zoom and it marked a farewell to normalcy. That afternoon our preschool announced its closing and the next day our school district followed. My husband came home from work and would not return, our town, a slice of heaven that’s movie-like in scenery, would standstill, and the entire world seemed quiet and questionable.

I have no idea what’s ahead. I think no one does, which is why everyone has an opinion and/or elevated sense of survival. I just know that for the rest of my life I’ll remember those minutes inside Panera.  It was the beginning of something and the end of so much more. And while I know I’ll be back one day, maybe at the same table, and hopefully with some good company and conversation, everything will be different. Like so many, I am forever changed.