Making Ends Meet by Judy Turner
A can of Rosella tomato soup, that’s all Joan wanted. She wandered around for a considerable time before asking one of the Woolworth’s staff where the soup aisle had gone. Last week it was aisle 3 next to the flour and dried fruits, but today everything had changed. She’d discovered the dried fruits (now in aisle 2) and placed her packet of prunes in the trolley, but the soup aisle had vanished.! The entire store except for the meat and fresh produce had been rearranged! Why did they do that? Joan hated it. She was 96 years old, too old for change.
There was too much change in her life recently. First, the horrendous bush fires destroying homes, lives, flora and fauna, then the floods, and now this confounded coronavirus thing. Joan had survived a depression, wars, marriage, births and deaths, but this virus loomed strange and frightening. Social distancing, people out of work, folk sick and dying all over the world. Terrible! She was glad she lived on the South Coast and not in the city. Her son lived in Sydney and now worked from home because of the danger. ‘Don’t you go out, Mum. I’ll organise for your groceries to be delivered.’
But Joan enjoyed her outing to Woolworths. She’d hoped to see a few friendly faces in the supermarket, but noticed most people’s expressions bore a harassed, besieged look as they perused half-empty shelves.
Heavens above, her bridge sessions and U3A classes were cancelled and she couldn’t visit the Club for a meal or even sit down in the coffee shop. She now drank her coffee sitting in her car down by the river with only the seagulls for company. Her routine had been thrown right out of whack, making her feel a bit discombobulated, and now this rearranging of the supermarket to make things worse!
The Government seemed to be spending money like it was going out of fashion. How would they pay it all back? Next, there would be a disastrous recession. Young ones today had no idea what might be in store for them. Young people today had no idea how to make do.
Joan could recall the last Great Depression. A dreadful time. She was only a small child but could remember her father leaving home to walk the track, searching for work to make ends meet and provide for the family. Joan knew they were lucky to live by the coast with a bit of land and her mother kept a few hens and a vegetable garden to help keep them fed. There wasn’t too much meat on their table in those days and the swaggies came to the back-door begging for work or food. Joan watched her mother struggling to find something to give those poor men. Sometimes it was simply a slab of bread with dripping and a bit of tea and sugar twisted into a piece of newspaper to send them on their way.
Joan remembered seeing a swaggie come up to the counter in the local general store one day. He had a half loaf of bread and one tomato in his hand. When Mrs Baker told him how much, he counted out his coins and was threepence short. Mrs Baker repeated the amount needed and the poor man searched his pockets. He shook his head and Joan saw the awful despair in his eyes. ‘Well, I’ll have to make do with just the bread then,’ he said, pushing the one tomato across the counter. Mrs Baker took the coins and pushed the tomato back towards him. Dreadful, harsh times, those Depression days.
Joan pushed her trolley into aisle 5, confronting the vast array of canned soups, dry packet soups, soups in lidded cups and now ‘gourmet’ soups in pouches. ‘100% ORGANIC’ they shouted. ‘100% AUSTRALIAN.’ Well, all that was well and good, but she still liked plain old tinned Rosella tomato soup. But where was it? Campbells, Heinz, but no Rosella. Joan felt like stamping her foot. All this choice, but no Rosella!
She picked up one of the fancy pouched soups and read: ‘Organic tomatoes, grown without pesticides. GMO-FREE’ (What did that mean?). ‘NO SUGAR!’ She put it back on the shelf and took a can of Heinz tomato soup. She would just have to make do with that, she supposed. And now for the last thing on her list—some toilet paper.