…so said my mother. Always commenting on my propensity to think “too much” about things…”Go out to play.” was her common refrain, and rightfully so, I suppose. She had no better thoughts for the direction of my mind, heaven bless her.
It was a very long time ago but I remember clearly of visiting the farm in Virginia in the summer of 1957. As the days unfolded I became completely aware of the extraordinary experience of the farm life, of how it was for my grandparents.
Granddad used 2 buckets to collect water from a well. The quenching of thrist, cooking, cleaning and laundry, bathing and brushing teeth made possible only with the water my granddad collected from the well and carried to the farmhouse, every day of the year.
By contrast in Philadelphia, our water was managed by a system and people that we would never see or get to know. The flip of a switch or the turn of a knob provided all utilities for the household. And subsequently and without fail, there appeard every month on the floor below the mail slot of the front door a bill for services rendered. How completely convenient for us! Poor Granddad.
But then, hadn’t Granddad chosen to abandon his indoor plumbing after it failed? Hadn’t he simply gone back to his tried and true reliable way of the well?
So the child wondered, “What would our family do if the switches and knobs stopped working at our house?”
Hard to tell what the truth is. We’re in the midst of something that we cannot navigate if we are to listen to what is being said. There is just so much: half-truths, fabrications, even lies; information withheld because there is no complete certainty of what is actually within our midst. Everyone has an opinion; yet no one knows for sure.
And we do like being sure.
We need to know for sure.
Well, too bad because this one has got us by the “you-know-whats”. While no one wants to leave their well-being to a crap shoot, we do our due diligence health wise and hope it suffices.
As there is no definitive, there is no clearly effective shield from this scourge. No one finds themselves more able to insulate themselves than the person in back of the line.
Anger and divisiveness does not make us safer.
Sanitize everything, keep your distance…
So what now?
I must say that I’ve been made aware of a change. As unnerving as it is, I think the uncertainty makes people more considerate of each other, somehow. I notice kindness, more tolerance, even a tepid sense of humor in instances where people might previously have chosen to avoid each other. It is a little startling, pleasantly so. And I’ll take it!
Is this virus the thing that provokes us to be more of a human being toward next person?
It is a tough lesson but this microscopic bit of hope within the extenuating circumstances of the corona virus could have a more profound and unexpected impact toward improving the situation in which we all find ourselves; to change our way with each other like nothing else, if, you believe in the power of such sentiments as consideration, or kindness, compassion, love? I do. Is that a stretch?
But let’s face it. Fear makes friends like nothing else can. Or as Shakespeare said, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”
Now the trick is to get to this place without such terrible provocation.
The effort is so very well worth making. And it requires so little of us.
Sending loving kindness and good health to everyone, everywhere!
Years had gone by without a single thought of the time in 1957 when I spent the summer with my grandparents on their farm in Virginia. Then, in the midst of a prolonged illness, among all of the things my mind was sorting through, this forgotten experience drifted in. Totally unprovoked and effortlessly revealing, I felt the need to write everything that I could remember, just as it presented itself to me.
And as I wrote, I became more and more immersed within the warmth and comfort of that time with my grandparents, so precious and dear to me now, as I realize after all, how much meaning it brought to my life.
This glimpse into their world was written with love and a deep and ever-growing appreciation for my family, for my heritage. It might well have been entitled , “The Gift”.
* A little of how it goes:
As far as I was concerned, summer began with the day my father installed the screens in the windows. Early that morning, Mother would have taken the summer sheers from storage to the clothesline in our backyard. By the afternoon, she swooped up the freshened bundle and brought them back indoors to hang on the rods at the tops of the windows. When the transformation was complete, I’d run from room to room to see the curtains flying on the breeze that raced in through the windows of our big old house. Like a magical invitation to adventures possible only with summer, when one day melted into the next and no one asked about the time, I felt that I could fly too and that anything could happen.
There were 5 children in my family. My brother Lionel was the oldest; my sister Cecilia was next, followed by my sister Rose, then my brother Isaac, and me. We spent summertime totally absorbed in keeping pace with our friends as was our Mother in keeping up with us. She mended our scraped knees, our bruised egos, and the holes in my brothers’ dungarees. I remember lemonade and tuna sandwiches, cotton sun dresses and hair ribbons; the pennies I collected for the corner candy store, and my ankle socks that never stayed up. Summers seemed much longer then when hopscotch and jump rope, hide-and-seek and tag, dress-up and make-believe, with my bicycle, my dolls and friends filled the days until supper time. When August finally came around, among the five of us someone would be chosen to vacation with our grandparents in the country. It was in the year 1957 that I was to spend my first summer there.
I’d thought so often about my first trip to the farm. But like the landing of a cascading boulder, my mother’s cheerful delivery of this summer’s plan completely shattered my vision of it. Leaving little room for the way that reality alters things but similar to most events concerning “the children”, I was quite certain of my unvarying reverie. It was always the same. My brothers and sisters are running through a country field with me, very happily and as usual, following close behind. But everything had been arranged and I alone would spend two weeks on the farm that year.
My family had gathered in the living room when Mother made the announcement. But my frustrating lack of enthusiasm was like a call to dinner in emptying the room of everyone and I found myself alone, save for the dog. While I struggled with the concept of being on my own, Spiky jumped onto the couch next to me. Placing his head upon my foot he kept a concerned and watchful eye over my disposition until we both fell asleep.
Later that day, I listened to Dad’s recollections of farm life adventures while Mother prepared supper. As she filled in with the finer points and particulars she’d taken note of my mixed feelings with her knowing smile that always took the sharp edges off of things. “Don’t forget that your cousin Joanna is just about your age and lives close to Grandpa‘s”, she nearly whispered. Then I thought of the pocket inside the little green suitcase as the place where my Jacks would find a perfect fit.