A CANUCK IN KANTUCK: <span>In a relationship with mashed potatoes</span>  

Tara Kaprowy

The other day, I was in Gucci Kroger's adjacent liquor store to buy a bottle of bourbon.

After I made my purchase, I peeked into Gucci Kroger itself to see what was what. Low and behold, I discovered the grocery store was nearly empty, with a clear, wide path toward the cheese counter. So, I adjusted my mask. I fluffed up my grey hair. I decided, on the spot, I was going cheese shopping.

For eight glorious minutes, I picked up and sniffed wedges. I debated on crackers. I considered quince. I settled on four selections, two bloomy and soft, two hard and nutty.

After six months of soulless ClickList, it felt like the most luxurious eight minutes of 2020.

I first saw the term "Gucci Kroger" in a tweet from my friend Jill Thompson. Immediately, I laughed out loud, in part because it was so accurate. If you don't count the food aisle in T.J. Maxx, Kroger Marketplace (one of those super Krogers) is probably Somerset's fanciest place.

While I mulled over cheese, I felt like I could be anywhere in the country. If I didn't turn around and just stared at the wedges, hearkening from France and Germany, Switzerland and England, I even felt like I could be anywhere in the world. I felt free. I felt cosmopolitan. Gucci, indeed.

This, I realized, is what 2020 gave us. An errand that at any other time in the previous decade would have felt like a chore had become a luxurious gift.

There are other pieces of daily life that I hadn't realized I took for granted. For example, I don't consider myself a natural hugger -- I always have to overcome a bit of introverted reluctance when someone leans in -- but I'll tell you, I kind of miss hugs. I even miss giving them. My poor friend Candice has had the roughest year of her life caring for her sick dad. I haven't been able to offer any hugs during the process, just a series of winces and sympathetic smiles as she works through a painful time. Would a hug solve anything? No. But I've realized that it can offer a temporary lift -- a suspension of sorts -- that I hadn't formally recognized it had the power to provide.

I've even started to miss buttons. At the beginning of the pandemic, I took solace in the fact that I didn't have to wear jeans. But as I put away the same t-shirts and the same yoga pants that I've been wearing for ten months -- a mini wardrobe that has become faded and pilled -- I realize I miss having somewhere to go that requires something more formal than Lycra. And buttons, well, buttons, I've realized, will keep you honest. Nothing gets you dieting faster than 10 hours spent in a pair of jeans that are too tight.

2020 also made me realize how much I love puzzles. We spent the bulk of our shutdown working on 1,000-piece lovelies, with William working on the detailed bits and me working on sky or water. We even did a couple murder mystery puzzles where you only discover the murderer once you have the puzzle assembled. Post-pandemic, without the necessity of being housebound, will we ever do this again? Will we one day look back on this time with fondness and even regret that we don't commit to this peace and quiet anymore?

Instead, we'll be busy making plans or, better, executing them. Some of those will invariably involve heading to the airport. You know, I had a lot of feelings toward airports, but I didn't know how many until this past year. Mostly, I found the experience in them painful, a fight against boredom (waiting to get on a plane, waiting to get off of it), impatience (Why are you chewing your gum that way? Why do you smell like that?) and anxiety (Will the plane be on time? Will the plane be broken? Will the plane crash?).

I'd like to think that the next time I can actually go somewhere, I will approach my time in the airport with a different attitude, one that focuses more on what the experience is giving me instead of doing to me. I like to think that attitude toward airports, toward life in general, will last a lifetime.

But will it? How long will our renewed gratitude last before it's as faded and pilled as our pandemic wardrobe? Are we changed? Or will we get complacent and overlook? Will I walk into Gucci Kroger next year and take it for granted?

I guess only 2021 knows that.

Tara Kaprowy is a former Sentinel-Echo staff writer and now lives in Somerset.

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