all of the selves we Have ever been
By the time this pandemic is over,
we will be seeing everyone’s true colors.
I am not talking about reputation; I am talking about roots.
Perhaps this life changing event is really an international conspiracy to answer the question, “Does she or doesn’t she?” The schemers will not have to torture our hairdressers to know for sure. In a few months, we’ll all know who among us is a true blond or redhead. There will be no kidding ourselves or others about how old we are.
What will jump start the economy? Manufacturing plants and airline travel? No way! It will be barbershops and beauty salons. Available appointments will be as scarce as toilet paper.
Face it. By the time we are free to move about the country, we are going to have to ask folks for their IDs. That will include our loved ones too. We will be a new people when this is over—a gray, striped, long-haired, bearded, straggly-looking people with big eyebrows, and ear hair.
Now that I think of it, none of us will have acceptable IDs. Everything on our fancy new driver’s licenses will be a lie. We’ll be older with new hair color and new hairdos. And for sure, that weight figure that was always questionable will be entirely implausible.
A big part of my day is thinking about what I will eat next. Lounging for a living doesn’t burn many calories. My new all-day wardrobe of pajama bottoms and sweatpants is not doing me any favors either. I can feel the blue jeans getting snug, the work pants stretched to their limits. I renew my vows each morning. I promise to get out for a walk. I promise to watch that exercise video…But with the perpetually cloudy skies and frequent rain, it is easier to divorce myself than keep my promises. I hope I get enough money for a new wardrobe in the settlement.
I may also have to re-take the vision test. Currently, my driver’s license says I must wear corrective lenses. Spending so much time indoors under dark clouds I feel like a bat in a cave. When I am released, I will be blinded by the light of day and forced to travel at night by sonar. I will need a self-driving car.
Recovery is going to get expensive! There will be the long hours in the salon, the new wardrobe, the self-driving car, and the license renewal. Whoever said freedom does not come without a price sure knew what he was talking about.
Today, I continued with my plan
to go from room to room tidying up some of the things I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.
I started with the coat closet. A paltry collection of two light jackets and one winter coat dangles on hangers from the long rod. They are barely perceptible in the large dark closet which also contains a tool box, large level, a drill, an upright vacuum cleaner, five empty cardboard boxes, my stash of paper supplies, and a big bag of bags.
I shift the coats, tools, paper products, and vacuum cleaner to the right and ponder my reasons for saving so many cardboard boxes. I kept each of them “just in case”—just in case I needed to return the items that came in them, or just in case I needed to mail a gift to someone, or just in case another box full of stuff becomes worn and needs replaced….It is the same story for the bag full of bags. In my mind’s eye, there is so much potential, I can’t let go—just in case.
How many things in my life have I accumulated “just in case?” It is good to be prepared, but generally, when I need something, I forget that I was accumulating items for just such a situation. Then I either buy something or go on a scavenger hunt to find something useful. Sometimes it is a nice surprise to find that I had a solution to my problem tucked away in some nook or cranny. More often, I am irritated by having to move the stuff around to get to what I need like the vacuum cleaner.
Today, I go bold. I flatten the boxes and move them to the recycling pile, but I weaken when I come to the bags. I save the sturdiest of the bunch. Who knows? In the current situation, I could end up homeless. I’ll hold onto to a few…just in case…
Feeling a sense of accomplishment, I move into my office. My eyes land on an old Rolodex that has sticky notes protruding from the M-P section. There is a stack of business cards hanging off to one side. I look at the mess and ask myself, “Do I really know this many people?”
I generally rely upon the contact list in my phone or on my computer, but I still keep some info on the small paper cards of the Rolodex as a back-up system. You know, just in case…
I start with A-D and card-by-card, work my way through the entire Rolodex. I’ve had this system for more years than I can remember. Studying each card becomes a game of trivial pursuit. Who is this person? How do I know them? I search for clues. Do I recognize the zip code from one of the many cities in which I’ve lived? How about the area code? I can place most of the names, but there are some that draw nothing but blanks. I discard a few of the unrecognized names, and I hang onto a few...just in case.
I do enjoy looking through the cards that contain names of friends, family members and colleagues. I look at the addressees that have been crossed off and the new ones added. I can trace a friend from her childhood home, to college, to her first marriage, her first big job, her move to a new city, a remarriage, and on into retirement. I see my children’s names in the file. There are various college addresses and first apartments. In this tiny file cabinet is my medical history in brief with the names and contact information for past physicians, dentists, and physical therapists. I see the names and former addresses of old co-workers. One moved to Virginia, another to Seattle. I enjoy reminiscing about our work days together, and I wonder how they are. Maybe I will use this shelter-in-place time to look them up and see what they are doing now.
I make quick work of the thick stack of business cards. I have no idea who most of the people are. I must have picked up the bulk of the cards at various conferences and business meetings over the years. I can’t think of any case in which I would be giving them a call. I run the cards through the shredder.
I add a few more cards to the file, information from scraps of paper littering my desk top. When I finish tidying up, the Rolodex looks so neat and professional. I feel a sense of accomplishment, and I vow to keep the Rolodex up-to-date and in order. Mm, hmm.
Tomorrow I will tackle that stack of bulging file folders that has followed me from place to place. I will try to decipher what it is that I was preparing for…the just in case that never happened.
The Ohio Governor is not hosting
a news conference today.
During this pandemic, my schedule of limited, stay-at-home activities centers on that daily 2:00 PM broadcast. Knowing there will be no update today, I realize I have an entire day off. What to do?
The sun is shining. That’s a big plus. I open the window and a strong gust of wind pushes in like a busy toddler. It blows a coaster off a tabletop, turns back the cover of a magazine, and scatters a pile of papers onto the floor. I sit on the couch and try to read, but the lively breeze says, “PLAY!”
Dull from spending so much time alone at my desk, I decide that I do need to MOVE. I reach a decision to initiate a new daily routine. I will go from room to room and tidy up all of the things I’ve been meaning to get to, but I will do it without any pressure or specific time table.
I start with the kitchen. I open the first cabinet door and spy a dilapidated old two-pocket folder. The outside of the folder is decorated with images of the great baseballs stars of yesteryear. I think back to the day my son and I purchased this folder for a third grade class. The inside pockets are stuffed with recipes. Most are pages torn from old magazines, some are handwritten by me on pieces of scrap paper or sticky notes, and a few are in the neat handwriting of old friends. I study the familiar penmanship that brings the faces of these friends into view. I look at those recipes and remember the parties, the birthdays and the bridal showers that led to the sharing of the recipes. I remember how much I relish the sight of the distinctive handwriting of people I love.
As I page through the contents of the folder, I notice that a number of the recipes were clipped from old magazines. Many are more than 40 years old. There are recipes saved from a time when I was a teenager dreaming of living on my own one day. I study the now dated product packaging pictured in the accompanying ads. It brings to mind another time and other kitchens. I see myself back there and remember the dreams I once had.
Perhaps one of my dreams was to be a sculptor. My medium? Rice Krispies and marshmallows. There are several different sets of instructions for transforming the sticky goo into pink hearts with sprinkles, wreaths with gumdrops and licorice ribbons , stars on sticks, footballs, and little baskets. There is also a play-doh recipe that includes Kool-Aid as an ingredient. Ah, that dough occupied a lot of hours for me and for my children.
Some recipes have no titles or identification. The instructions are incomplete. I have to study the notes hastily scrawled on sticky notes and bits of recycled paper and napkins. Oh, that one must be for turkey burgers. And here’s how to make a substitute for Worcestershire sauce which I rarely have.
In the first pocket of the folder is a college-ruled notebook with a tattered red cover and rusted metal spiral. Inside are yellowed pages. My youthful handwriting is there in bright blue ink. I carefully turn the pages. I see recipes written in my own hand, recipes captured on a few rare days when I followed my Aunt Lillie or my Aunt Gen around the kitchen and recorded some of the family recipes they knew by heart. Some of the pages contain recipes copied from a favorite Good Housekeeping cookbook that was the master reference in my mother’s kitchen, the book that taught me how to cook.
The notebook contains recipes for things once popular that I haven’t eaten or thought about in years. There are the cheese balls and liverwurst balls popular back in the day when my mom took her turn hosting card club. I remember the excitement of setting up those folding tables and chairs and laying out the spread of sophisticated adult snacks. I find the family recipe for grape leaves and Bishop’s Bread.
Behind the notebook, my son’s favorite meal appears inside a plastic sleeve--chicken and cheese enchiladas. The ad says “M’m, M’m Good!” A little deeper in the pile is the chocolate mint brownie recipe that won my sixth grade daughter a blue ribbon in the annual Girl Scout bake-off.
In the second pocket, right on top, is the must-have strawberry Jello dish that delights the extended family. We don’t know if it is a salad or a dessert, but it is a requirement at every gathering no matter the season. There is something so satisfying about the delicious blend of tart and sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy. I look forward to making this once again when my family gathers to celebrate the end of the pandemic.
I review each page, each sticky note, each napkin. I clip the rough edges and smooth out the wrinkles. I place each recipe in a protective plastic sleeve and organize it all into a binder. I give those recipes the honor they deserve for their lifetime of service. I tuck a note inside that that says, “These recipes were lovingly reviewed, collected and preserved on March 29th during the great COVID-19 epidemic of 2020.”
This binder contains not just recipes, but important history. And now it is a gift to the future, for a time when my children and grandchildren get hungry, hungry for their youth, hungry for the old days, and hungry for me.
Every mom has an inner MacGyver.
We may not be secret agents, but we each have a deep well of resourcefulness. We can save a life, and we know how to make do in a pinch.
The Hollywood MacGyver is described as having genius-level intellect. He can speak several languages and dispose of bombs. He understands physics and engineering. MacGyver is known as a non-violent problem solver. He does all of that in his fashionable Hollywood wardrobe.
Most moms do genius level work without the IQ testing. We may not speak several bonafide languages, but each child comes with his or her own dialect. Moms are masters at diffusing things that are about to explode. Just ask any mother who has three kids at home with the stomach flu. We don’t have to study physics to understand the relationship between time and space. Moms know there is never enough of either, and yet the kids show up to the bake sale with cupcakes on a moment’s notice. As to engineering, I’ve been known to oversee the construction of everything from erupting volcanoes to a scaled-down version of the Parthenon, and I know 50 ways to unclog a toilet. If most moms weren’t so busy being moms, we’d be diplomats. That situation in the Middle East would be old news by now. And we can do it all on a bad hair day while wearing our pajamas.
There are the common, simple things we do like minor repairs to eyeglasses using twisty-ties, and cardboard shims under wobbly desk legs, reusing shopping bags and wrapping paper to cover school books, and wrapping a washcloth around a spatula to make a lotion applicator for someone’s back. Stepping it up, we create entire Halloween costumes out of rain ponchos. One time I had to transport a Jello salad to a gathering three hours away. I had no cooler, but in true MacGyver-fashion, I transformed a cardboard box, aluminum foil, and a plastic bag into an ice chest. The salad made it to the table with not so much as a drop of sweat on the glass dish! I hate to boast, but it was a proud moment.
But the Oscar goes to my Aunt Addie. She tops the list of impressive MacGyver-style improvisers. Many years ago, Aunt Addie attended an evening basketball game in which her son was playing. A terrible snowstorm kicked up while the game was in progress. By the time they returned to their car to make the trip home, it was dark outside and the car was covered. The snow continued falling thick and heavy. Addie started up the car, but when she turned on the windshield wipers, they malfunctioned and went dead.
The snowfall made visibility too poor to make it home without the wipers. Addie took the shoelaces from my cousin’s high-top basketball shoes and somehow rigged them to the wipers. They manually operated the windshield wipers by pulling on the shoe strings and made it safely home! A legendary, hall-of-fame, MacGyver-Mom move!
One of my favorite MacGyver-Mom stories is one I only read about. A child complained to his mother that his costume did not fit, and he had nothing to wear for trick-or-treating. The mom suggested the boy wear his pajamas and go as a tired person. Pure genius! And that mom was probably swinging between rooftops taking food to a neighbor when she came up with the idea.
After recalling all of these mom maneuvers, I decided to look up the definition of “mom.” A mom is “a person who has responsibility for the care of children.” What?! That seems pretty lame to me, but perhaps the description was just too long to print. In fairness, I am revising the description of MacGyver to “a person who takes after their mom.”
It’s a good thing
poor old Mr. Whipple isn’t here to see this.
That man ran a dignified, orderly, well-stocked, and well-patrolled toilet paper aisle.
Even before Mr. Whipple, toilet paper had an interesting history. In the process of evolution and elimination, our ancestors used whatever was available. The earliest humans turned to nature utilizing rocks and sticks and leaves. Later corncobs and wood shavings came in handy. Much later, people began to use paper, and the hefty Sears catalog was prized for more than the merchandise pictured on its pages. Eventually, a separate paper emerged for toileting purposes. By 1928, a soft, attractively-packaged toilet paper on rolls came to market helping the parent company survive the Great Depression. Apparently, toilet paper has a history of significance in national emergencies. Oh, the things we cling to in desperate times!
In the past few weeks, I’ve heard many puzzled people asking, “What’s with the toilet paper?” With it rapidly disappearing from store shelves, even the well-stocked have become suggestible to fear and doubt wondering if they have enough.
We’re Americans, people of action—and of shopping. If we can buy something to solve a problem, well, that’s downright patriotic! Stocking up on toilet paper helps to relieve our feelings of helplessness. It is something we CAN do. We feel prepared and in control of something. But seeing this common item disappear from the shelves has also added to uncertainty and fear. No one wants to be the only fool without toilet paper!
As we face the potential horrors of this pandemic including loss of jobs, loss of money, loss of health, and loss of loved ones, something inside us screams into the dark abyss, “We will not surrender our dignity!” Toilet paper has become the universal symbol and a rallying cry. People are on a roll. Not only are folks buying toilet paper by the truckload, they are engaging in numerous noble deeds as well. Thankfully, we are not hoarding our dignity; we are exercising it and finding that the supply is endless when we share.
No one wants to run out of toilet paper. Or dignity. Not in a pandemic. Not ever. So, enjoy the go, but please, don’t squeeze the Charmin supply.
I awaken this morning
and immediately begin to think how best to use yet another long, shelter-in-place day. I step to the window for the weather report. The sun is coming up in a clear blue sky, a welcome relief from the recent persistent heavy cloud cover and rain. Sliding the window open, I take the morning’s temperature. Perfect!
Dressing quickly, I head for the urban bike path near my home. It is a lonely start. No one passes by with a nod of greeting, no “good mornings.”
A few mores paces, and I begin to hear it. Voices are singing. A choir stretches the length of the path, right and left. Like long strands of twinkling Christmas lights, the birds fill the dark, leafless trees; they tuck themselves into the shrubs. Some divas claim the spotlight high up on the utility wires.
I listen to the blend of raucous voices, tweets and twitters, cheeps and chirps, songs and calls. A loud, insistent voice shouts “be-caws, be-caws.” Tell me more, I think. Do you have an answer to our troubles?
Since last I stepped out on the bike path, the birds returned en masse to this, their summer home. It is a joy to see this flock of essential workers. They have pollinating to do, seeds to disperse. Poop where they may, the ground needs fertilized. No need to fight over toilet paper. There is pest control to be done and scavenging to keep nature clean of decay. A good-natured bunch they are, singing as they work. Soon they will search for food to feed their young. More voices will join the work force and the choir.
The birds remind me that there are seasons in life. Each spring they return home to a place that is barren. They are not discouraged by the sight of empty sidewalks, leafless trees and lifeless soil. The task of these essential workers is resurrection, a mighty job of pollinating, seeding, fertilizing, cleaning, and pest control. We are aware of none of it. All we know is that they are singing.
Excuse, me, but did someone just speak for me?
I thought I heard someone say that grandparents (aka older adults) are willing to die to save the economy.
Really? I don’t recall being asked.
I am not surprised. This trend has been growing over a long period of time. It was annoying before, now it is terrifying.
When did we begin to see people as merchandise? Stock to be moved around in the warehouse? An inventory system of first in, first out?
What’s your “brand” people ask. A reputation earned by deeds has been replaced by a popular slogan that tells us nothing about the ethics of the person.
Have you prepared your elevator pitch? Character revealed through a lifetime of action is now spun into a carefully crafted thirty-second-commercial-message. It is more important that the message be memorable than true.
The ability to “sell yourself” has become more important than a track record of competence.
Wisdom and know-how take time to develop. In a society of disposable goods, we need to make it clear that people are not the equivalent of items on a store shelf rapidly approaching a pre-determined expiration date.
It is the folks with a long shelf life who are going to get us through this epidemic. Do we really want to trade a Dr. Birx, a Dr. Fauci or a Governor DeWine, for the youthful consumers who crowded the beaches in recent weeks?
The distinction between the two groups is not age. It is education, knowledge, wisdom, experience, and perspective. The ability to have the long view is essential in a crisis. Frustrating as it has been, young people cannot be blamed for having the perspective of youth, a perspective that can be lacking in experience, seriousness and urgency. The young will never mature or become more thoughtful without the guidance of their elders. We need the older adults to save the young, not to save the economy.