The first snow of the season is gently falling this Sunday morning and most of Richmond has been to the grocery store for bread and milk. I’m in the middle of a 14-day detox from gluten and dairy and sugar and caffeine, and I’ve gone to the grocery store for organic lemon and cranberry juice because I’ve run out of these ingredients essential for my three times daily detox drink. The Food Lion down the road was out, presumably because my neighbors who got me into this thing have been there already. So I had to go to the west end for lemon juice.
Most of Richmond is snugly watching the snowfall from the warmth of their homes. I am driving west on Mechanicsville Turnpike. The road dead ends at a park that overlooks Shockoe Bottom and the Richmond skyline. I discovered it last fall and wondered then what it would look like in a snowfall, so I drive through the “projects” to get there, snap a picture, and find my way home via Church Hill, Laburnum, and eastern Henrico. I pass a church with a red lighted sign that shouts “PRAY” in all caps, and I marvel at how my higher power never ceases to speak to me when I’m alone and silent as the falling snow.
Driving familiar back roads, I ponder how others are in search of bread and milk while I’m in search of bitter beverages. And why. My mind wanders, feeling the depth of the question and not quite wanting to dive in, and considers the couple down the street who are divorcing. She apparently left. To my eyes, they were the perfect couple with perfect children and a perfect little home, inside and out, with everything in its place. On kindergarten orientation day when our daughters met because they sat at the same desk, I envied their coupleness as they filled out paperwork together. I wonder now if she saw me in my singleness, surviving, and thought it something to aspire to. I wish I could tell her that it wasn’t my first choice. It was never my first choice.
I think about the first house my ex-husband and I looked at, in a neighborhood somewhere off this road I’m driving. It was in the back of a cul de sac and had a basement, and the day we looked at it, there was snow. We rejected it because we didn’t like the color and we thought it was out of our price range, but by April, we had signed a contract on a purple house in Glen Allen that we knew we’d repaint and that cost us just as much and didn’t have a basement. I find myself wondering how different our lives might have been had we bought our first choice, had stayed at our old church, had started our family a 20 minute drive from our parents instead of two.
I feel a sudden urge. After 48 hours of inertia, my bowels are starting to move. I tighten my muscles and race to get home, passing four police cars going, thankfully, in the opposite direction. I burst in the front door with my bottle of lemon juice in hand and notice out of the corner of my eye, my Christmas tree still standing in the living room, white lights twinkling. The snow is a month too late, I think, yet grateful I’ve left it up if only to know what it would have been like to have a white Christmas. I sit on the toilet, relishing the relief of releasing the waste of what was left behind after my body took all the nutrients it could from two days worth of organic whole foods. I reach for the toilet paper, and the roll is empty. Bread and milk and toilet paper, I think, and make my way back to Food Lion.