It's impossible to know how this period in human history will be judged — were we stupid, were we wise, was this a global turning point or an exceptionally painful blip?
In the scheme of things, the items I have already saved and documented seem very small potatoes. But, they are my potatoes.
I have a copy of a restaurant gift certificate given to me by a friend who bought it as a way of supporting local businesses.
I have a letter on Quad-City Times letterhead and signed by my editor that I can carry with me while reporting in Illinois in case I am stopped and asked why I am not "sheltering at home."
The letter explains that I am directly involved in news reporting, which has been exempted from the shelter order as an essential business. "The person in possession of this letter is an employee or independent contractor working on behalf of a newspaper," it states. "This person's presence outside or on the road is a legal exception to current travel restrictions."
Of course I've saved lots of copies of the Times, beginning with the March 12 edition that proclaimed PANDEMIC across the entire top of the page and the March 13 edition that did the same with CANCELED, referring to sports. (And, as it turned out, just about everything else.)
I have a pleated cloth face covering sewn by my sister-in-law, and a graduation party invitation from a great-niece with a "cancelled" label across the front.
I also keep a journal, and often cut out parts of newspaper articles to tape onto pages as a reflection of what is going on.
Nowadays those reflections are a disturbing house of mirrors. The number of dead. Statements by people desperate to get back to work. An article about farmers killing baby pigs because there is no point in feeding them. Accounts of business people wondering how long they can hang on. Statements from politicians that are, to me, frightening.
And then there things happening in my own circle of family and friends.
People in my family losing their jobs. My working from home and the knot in the back of my neck. Frustration with having to bag my groceries in plastic. Our daughter working in health care, wearing a mask and face shield. My nephews visiting my sister, but staying in her attached garage and talking through the screen door. Going through lots of soap.
We all have stories.
Consider sharing yours with the library or the Putnam or both. In addition to writing history, I think it will make you feel better.
P.S. Regarding the plastic bags at the store.
Nancy Foster, one of the co-founders of Habitat ReStore and an obsessive reuser of bags, offers this suggestion: "Pay for the groceries, put them back in your cart and wheel them out to your car where you can bag them in your own bags without worrying the store staff."