Sister Mary Micheline held up the classroom reward jar. I had finally earned a piece of candy. I slid out of my desk and slowly walked to the front of the room. Other second grade students in my class had frequently earned rewards from this jar since school had started this fall. The candy in the jar wasn’t just picked over, it was down to the last treat; one black licorice jelly bean…no one’s favorite candy.
Sister unscrewed the lid and held the jar out for me to reach in. I heard someone in the room snicker. Sister’s face was a map of winkles snuggly wrapper with a white wimple. A large black veil flowed from top of her head and down over her shoulders and back. Grasping the jelly bean, I pulled my arm out of the jar and looked up into the pale blue eyes of my elderly nun. I dutifully recited slowly, “Thank-you Sister Mary Micheline.”
Back at my desk, I looked down at the prize in the palm of my hand and for a second it blurred. In September and October, the jar held many desirable candies. Blinking, I thought, “Daddy loves licorice jelly beans.” Suddenly I felt so much better, I popped the black bean into my mouth. The sweet licorice taste made me feel as if my adored Daddy was sitting right next to me.
Ever since COVID-19 took its center-front place on the world’s stage last spring, I sometimes feel as if my life has turned into a giant licorice jelly bean. The world isn’t the way I want it to be. The fear of getting the virus stops me from doing and going as I want. Surely, I might not get very sick, but then again, I could die. Worse yet, what if I gave the virus to someone else and they died?
I miss shopping, eating out and attending large family gatherings. All the extra time spent at home finds me following the news. What I see angers, horrifies and scares me. It is easy to start feeling powerless and lonely. I begin stewing in a boiling mixture of acid reflux, cortisol and adrenaline.
When I received the disappointing black licorice jelly bean as a reward in second grade, I turned it into a virtual hug from my Daddy. I want to do the same with the strange COVID-19 world we now live in.
There are so many things to be thankful for. The first one that comes to mind is our ability to electronically connect with people. I can’t visit the people I love, but I can call, text, message and video conference with them multiple times a day. If COVID had happened in 1958, we would have had party-line phone calls and mail delivered daily.
Being confined with family members might drive some people crazy, but many families besides myself will treasure the extra family time together.
I am inspired and amazed by the inventive people who creatively survive pandemic restrictions. Eat-in restaurants stay in business by shifting to carry-out meals. Without patrons, the bathrooms are unused, so one restaurant also sells toilet paper and hand towels. Good idea! Provide what people need and want.
A craft store my daughter likes now has virtual shopping nights. The owner films herself showing items and explaining how they can be used. She offers incentives and game pieces so shoppers can win prizes.
Inventive ways to deliver Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters were delightful. The candy chute I liked the most extended from a window down to the mouth of a large jack-o-lantern pumpkin. A child shouting, “trick or treat!” prompts the homeowner to drop a snicker candy bar into the chute. A second later, the candy falls out of the pumpkin’s large, round mouth.
Recreating classical pictures found in art galleries is now a ‘thing’. I hope someone records the cultural changes of these times. Some of the recreation pictures are better and funnier than the originals. Look for them on the internet to discover how pleated toilet paper makes great ruffled collars for old European portraits.
Although life is not the way I’d like it to be, I’m giving thanks for all the wonderful, joyful things we still have enriching our lives this Thanksgiving. I’m even thankful for black jelly beans!