A sense of being caught in a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from, washed over me when I first heard the news. The order to shelter in place was soon to be given. All non-essential stores were to close. There were to be no more church services until the pandemic was under control. I felt very alone, like a shipwrecked sailor on a deserted island. Luckily, I had something Robinson Crusoe didn’t; a telephone and computer.
Knowing that my daughter Tammie was working from home, I called her. Trying to sound cool and relaxed, I inquired, “How are you doing?” Her voice radiated stress as she answered, telling me about strange cars parking in front of her house on the quiet side street, sounds never noticed before and so many sirens from a nearby fire station screaming along on a street one block from her house as they rushed to their next emergency.
Concluding her litany of complaints, Tammie stated, “I have no appetite. I haven’t eaten anything all day.”
Concerned, I asked, “Have you gone out side for walks? You need fresh air and exercise to make you feel better.”
After a slight pause, Tammie questioned, “Mom, would it be alright with you if I came home for a little while? Since I work from home, I can be anywhere. I thought if you agree, I’ll slowly pack this week and drive home on the weekend. The loneliness of not going anywhere or seeing anyone for the last few weeks is getting to me.”
Without a moment of hesitation, I eagerly suggested, “Why wait until next weekend? Pack up now and drive home tomorrow! The order to shelter in place will soon be given.” Continue reading
Walking out the back door, I shouted, “Girls, I’m going for a walk.”
From the living room I heard the thump of feet on the floor and the television being switched off as fourteen-year-old Niki and ten-year-old Tammie chorused, “We want to come, too!”
By the time I reached the end of the driveway, my daughters had caught up with me. The early fall evening sunshine was glorious and the sky a clear, deep blue. Crossing the bridge over the river, we headed up hill. Along the road were young poplars, their leaves quivering in the slight breeze. The sound they made was a murmuring background to my daughter’s chatter.
As we approached a culvert along the road, we heard a gurgling trickle of water. Many weeds grew in this damp ditch. I spotted one that was blooming and gingerly stepped over to pick one of its stems. I instructed my daughters, “This is a jewel weed. As kids, my friends and I called them ‘touch-me-not’ weeds. Look at their pretty orange blossoms. When their blossoms get old, they turn into seed pods.” Pointing to a fat, green pod on one of the branches I exclaimed, “Like that one!”
Tammie looked closely at the pod. Niki was leaning over her shoulder to see. I encouraged, “Touch the seed pod, Tammie.” The minute her finger touched it, the walls of the pod sprung open and the seeds within went flying in all directions. Tammie let out a small scream of surprise. I laughed. Continue reading
Dusk darkened the corners of the living room. After the bright, sunny afternoon, the close of the day seemed darker than usual. I looked up from where I sat playing with a doll on the linoleum living room floor as Mom walked across the room to switch on a floor lamp.
A warm evening breeze fluttered through the window curtains as I continued to play. Then, suddenly without warning, the light went out. Mom tried to turn on a different lamp. It didn’t work, either. Something had cut off the electrical power to our house.
It wasn’t uncommon for the lights to go out during a summer thunder and lightning storm, but the day had been clear and cloudless. Mom turned to stare out the big living room window. In the dusky yard everything looked normal, but despite my young age, I knew nothing was normal in the house.
A young child instinctively knows when their mother is frightened. She doesn’t have to say anything. The fear is in the tense way she stands, in her nervous glance, the way she breathes.
It wasn’t until talking to Mom many years later that I discovered what frightened her so badly that evening. She feared communist invasion lead by Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union. World War II had ended only ten years earlier and the cold war between the United States and Russia was ramping up. Continue reading
Before I could switch stations or turn the television off, a news reporter for the local 10 p.m. news flashed onto the screen. As I grabbed the remote control, I heard him announce, “Another person in Marathon Country has tested positive for COVID-19.”
Hitting the power-off button, the screen went black. Turning to my daughter Tammie, who is sheltering in place with me, I complained, “I can’t listen to the news right before bedtime. I won’t be able to go to sleep if I do. Sleep is important for us to feel well.”
Tammie nodded in agreement as she pointed out, “We’ve been keeping up with what’s been going on throughout the day. I don’t want to listen to the news at this time of the day, either.”
The reality of what sheltering in place really meant, took two weeks to totally sink in. My life, a sense of what my world was, my place in it and the end of old carefree routines crumbled and disappeared. I felt scared. The change was so sudden and drastic. We saw no end to this disruption, either. How frustrating!
As I prepared for bed, I thought about what I knew about the Spanish Flu in 1918. My mother had been 12 years-old at the time. People were told to stay home, then too. Many farmers in the Stratford area, like my mother and father’s families, didn’t alter their lives much. They already stayed home most of the time. Continue reading
Impatiently tossing the crochet pattern book aside, I looked at my small cache of yarn. I knew what I wanted to make, but was unable to follow through. I could read and understand the words, but by the pattern’s fourth step, confusion equal to what happened at the Tower of Bable would cloud my mind.
Pulling navy, white and red skeins of yarn closer to myself, I pictured a lap robe with wide crocheted bands of red and navy with a dozen white stars stitched onto it. The trickiest part of my design would be making the stars, but I had an idea. Picking a white skein, I took a strand of the yarn and twisted it around the crochet hook.
A warm, humid early summer afternoon breeze blowing through the living room window made the shear curtains flutter. All day an angry, dark blue sky had been threatening storms. Weather forecasters predicted tornadoes. Worried because I lived in a mobile home, I had the radio on so I could run for cover if there was a local tornado sighting.
I had been alone at home one May evening three years earlier when a tornado came through our mobile home court. Not having listened to the radio that evening, the storm startled me when I heard what sounded like a locomotive train alongside the house. Pulling a curtain aside, all I saw was nightmare-inducing greenish-black air between me and our neighbor’s house. Seconds later, the wind roughly picked up the front end of my house and set it down with a jolt three feet over. Continue reading