Thursday, March 19, 2020

~my chat with a wise woman because of COVID19

My mom and I were recently discussing the COVID19 situation and how this is unprecedented in many of our lifetimes, but definitely not in history. Even our own nation’s perilous times can be easy to overlook—but those situations are much too important to forget.

After chatting about several historical events that have mandated rationing, rules, or regulations, she told of two clear memories from her own childhood that she had never thought to share with me.

First, she said that as a little girl during WWII, the evening rule was “lights out!” during safety drills. This took place in Charlotte near the location of the current Mecklenburg County Courthouse. My grandmother ran a boarding house for young, single women, many of whom stayed in town during the week to work, some as riveters for the military.

Often, these women returned to their homes in Anson, Union, or other surrounding counties on weekends, but mom enjoyed their company during the work week and it was during this time that every household was instructed to turn out all lights with the exception of one candle every night at dusk.

Mom said she remembers how volunteers walked the streets of each section of town to ensure compliance. Her own street was patrolled by Mr. Jake McGrath. Each evening he strolled by, policing their neighborhood to make certain not a single light was visible from the outside.

The darkness of the city was an eerie phenomenon, but no one minded because they were protecting themselves from possible air raids and certain harm if the worst happened. Mom, though just a child, said she wasn’t scared because her own mother was calm and reassuring, so they simply did their part each night.

She told me about the scarcity of many things like some food items, elastic, and fabric. My grandmother made all of my mother’s clothing including her underwear, which now had to be held up by a drawstring instead of the elastic they had come to appreciate and enjoy. The military needed these things after all, and nobody resented making sacrifices for the good of those who were fighting against the evils of Hitler’s regime.

So, my mom had flour sack panties, and so did many others including their next door neighbor, an older woman who relied on my grandmother in some ways, too.

Mom’s recollection of this part of what I’ll share made me laugh out loud—and that’s one of the reasons I love my mother, she always finds a humorous silver lining in every dark cloud! This lady next door, we will call her Ethel, was in her yard when my grandmother asked if she wanted to go to the store with her to get some essentials.

Ethel’s reply, according to my mother was, “All my panties are dirty or drying on the clothesline, let me tie a string around my waist so I’ll feel like I have some on and I’ll go with you.”

Mom said she never got over imagining Miss Ethel with a string around her waist for “comfort.”

If you’re reading this from a lovely sofa where you’re quarantined, sheltering in place, or just practicing social distancing while wearing comfy elasticized underwear, think about Ethel and be grateful. And if you have lights and electricity and aren’t afraid to use them, think about Mr. McGrath. And if you have hot and cold water and food to eat in your pantry, think about our grandparents who did without, without complaining, for the good of their fellow man. And then maybe like me, you’ll admit that most of us don’t have it so bad at all—and really never have.

Nobody wants this and nobody likes this COVID19 new way of living, but I hope the silver lining that mom always seems to be able to find in every difficult season will mark my own life and I have to believe that by focusing on all I have to be thankful for—most especially for those who are making the greatest personal sacrifices during this pandemic—will go a long way toward that end.

So, doctor, nurse, police officer, EMT, firefighter, truck driver and every other person working hard to keep people well, protected, and safe, thank you. I know most all of us wish we could give you a great big hug—but we won’t. We will stay at least six feet away if at all possible. For now, at least. And we’ll pray that God blesses and protects every single one of you.

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