all of the selves we Have ever been
I awaken to a gloomy day.
Not sure if the gloom is a product of the weather or the shadow cast by the coronavirus.
Yesterday, slowing the spread of disease became a collective, world-wide mission. Schools are closing. Employees are being asked to work from home. We are all asked to practice hand washing and social-distancing. Not since 09/11 has the air contained so much uncertainty, so much unease.
While others head out to stock up on toilet paper, I make a start for the library. At 5:00 PM this evening, all of the library systems will close for at least two weeks. I want to be well-stocked. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I cannot live in a world without books.” If I should be forced to spend weeks at home alone, I will need some good company.
I arrive at my community library to find more people there than I have ever seen before. Despite the number of people and increased activity, the library is quiet, the patrons on a mission. Normally, I enjoy lingering at the library, browsing each section, but today I pick out a couple of novels and move on with some other routine errands, just in case…
The streets are quieter than usual. Without the typical Saturday bustle, it is hard to determine which shops and restaurants are open and which are closed. I make a quick stop at the bank and then the post office. As I walk from place to place, I try to anticipate how the world will be tomorrow when the normally hectic twenty-four hour world we live in comes to a halt in a universal time-out.
Sundays are the only other state-imposed time-out that I can recall in my lifetime. Nothing was open for business on Sundays except church and your grandmother’s house. After services and shedding those stiff, itchy, uncomfortable church clothes, we enjoyed big meals together, playing cards or board games, watching television, and listening to the stories of grandparents, aunts and uncles. Sometimes we just sat on the porch swing and rocked away a few hours. Sundays were good days, a welcome relief from the usual demands of life.
The only other personal history on which I can draw is the bouts of childhood illnesses common back then. Those were the years before vaccines when most children experienced rubella, measles, mumps, and chickenpox. In big families, the children usually went down like dominoes, so I often had a mate when I felt up to playing. We sprawled out on the couch or the carpet in our pajamas and read books, colored, watched cartoons, played board games, and slept. The treatments were few—remove the child from circulation and rest. We had baby aspirin and Vick’s Vapo-rub, but I don’t recall much else. We didn’t go to the doctors. If things got serious, the doctor made a house call.
When I wake up tomorrow, it will be Sunday. A new week, but I will be in a time-out of sorts. I think I will try to adopt the Sunday spirit of my youth. In the following days, I will try to ride out the germ storm as I learned to do during my childhood illnesses. I might even color and play some board games.