This Pandemic Is Gnawing Bits And Pieces Out Of Our Lives

by Samantha Bacchus McLeod

But pandemic or not, we must be strong and resilient, because one day soon when “this plague” has passed we will recover and limp onwards, triumphant.

Fifty+ years of being in and around kitchens and at the ripe old age of 52 I lost a part of my finger. Yes, my kitchen and food stories started at a very young age…there is a story about me circulating in the family that I should vehemently deny, but alas I cannot do so, because it makes absolute perfect sense.

When I was about 10 months old, my mom owned and operated a small corner shop, the kind of store that served everything from headache pills, to canned goods and fresh bread.

Fresh warm bread was delivered at 6 am and stacked in the bread display case. There were piles of warm soft rolls, and the Guyanese favourite; plaited white bread. There were loaves of aniseed bread with its intoxicating aromas like star anise, fennel, and liquorice, and lovely sticky sweet buns too…mmm.

One morning a customer bent over and peered into the bread case. Trying to see past the slight steaminess on the inner glass, she asked my mom, “Is that a doll in the bread case?”

My mom, without thinking, said “Oh shit not again.”

Apparently I had a penchant for crawling into the bread case, butt naked. In my defense…the warm breads, the aromas…it was all too irresistible.

But pandemic or not, we must be strong and resilient, because one day soon when the plague has passed we will recover and limp onwards, triumphant.
Image of plait bread

I could not be controlled so I was thereby relegated to the hips of my eldest sister. She was the head of the kitchen. For the next 4 years I spent all my waking hours with her; going to the morning markets to get the fresh seafood and vegetables. Visiting the chicken lady to buy a live chicken for our once a week meat dish. Chatting with the butcher about all sorts of cuts – my sister is very pretty so some chats took longer than was necessary – while I stared in fascination at hanging tongues, heels and jowls. Back home I was either involved in the plucking of herbs and picking up of fallen fruits from the backyard trees, or set upon a chair to watch her cook…and sample random bits of amuse bouche.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of kitchen adventures later and the kitchen stories has another segment added…I lost a part of my left index finger. I highly commend the knife makers, Wusthof, kitchen knives it doesn’t get sharper than theirs. And I mostly blame the pandemic for taking up half my brain.

In the last week, just before the finger fiasco, I also managed to lose a tooth.

This makes me wonder…how many of us are having minor and major accidents and blaming ourselves for it?

This is a strange landscape we are traversing, our generation’s pandemic. We, at least here in Vancouver, are not dying in the streets. We are getting our food supplies steadily. We are allowed the freedom to roam the outdoors. We have endless hours of streaming entertainment.

What this is actually doing is giving us a false sense of security. Do not be fooled because we are, no matter what we think, bearing the brunt of this pandemic.

Losing my tooth had nothing to do with my irresponsibility, and everything to do with the lockdown measures in place; our medical industry is being forced to reduce patient interactions. Plus, I have an amazing dentist in Athens and I have been unable to visit her for my scheduled visit because of the no-travel rule, which is due to the virulent coronavirus. Hence by the time I was able to visit a dentist it was too late for the tooth.

A mind boggling $5,000. will buy me a new coverup to be put in place in 4 weeks. And in a mere 6 weeks from now, I will have regrown some fingernail to cover up the missing tip.

This pandemic is tipping us over the edge, but not top of the cliff kind, more a slow slip and slide down a steep incline. With every slip we look for a hopeful foothold, and with every crumbling foothold our gloriously stubborn humanness makes us dig deep to find even more hope. Sadly, many have lost their lives, but for the rest of us…we can beat this pandemic.

That is our true strength; the ability to hold onto to hope, to reach out to cheer up others and in that simple act we find our own cheer.

Speaking of cheer, laughter helps. My partner has taken to yelling ‘Mind the gap!’ when he sees the space in my grimace. He has also asked, in some seriousness, if this losing of body bits is a ‘new weight loss program’.

When we have gotten to a place where this pandemic has lashed its tail a final fare thee well to us, we may not recover emotionally or physically whole, but we will face it for what it is. We will put a cap on it…and try to limp onwards, triumphant. Meanwhile, we must be as safe as we can be, wear our masks, but do not mask our fears and smiles. We have to stay connected to get through this – I cannot finish this post without saying a massive thank you to my incredible daughter, Tash. She kept me calm on the phone, rushed over, found the finger and got me to hospital. Then she returned to my home to cleaned up the mess.

And in the meantime, we should not blame ourselves for the clumsy mishaps…in most cases it is not us self-harming, but the pandemic woes occupying our every waking hour.

Right now, I miss my tooth but I love my smile.

I am sad to lose part of my finger, but so proud of my one-handed typing.

And even more so, I am happy to do the bulk of my work – drawing up storyboards for a food documentary, editing images and videos – with that little click-y thing…what is it called again?

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