It’s just chilly enough this evening for a fire. As I sit by the hearth and get her going, I am pleased with the prompt ignition. Some deep yet shallow part of me is proud. Look at that fire, boys. Ya momma did that. There is satisfaction in its warmth. Today I am so pleased when something goes as it should.
I wanted to write something this week that had nothing to do with all this mess going on. I wanted a brief respite from it all. I don’t even have to name it for you to know what I’m talking about. We will for the remainder of this column refer to the situation as C. It pleases me to not give it any more power than I must by not naming it. But as I sit down to write and think of what’s on my mind, how can I not go to what’s going on?
We humans are creatures of habit. When I get down to it, that is the problem, at least for me. I find great comfort in my routine. As long as everything is going according to plan, there is great solace in that. When things go as expected, there is little cause for alarm. That’s what has everyone so up in arms right now, methinks. The big C situation is unprecedented. We cannot fall back on a previous experience for comfort. We cannot think to ourselves that we did XYZ when this happened before, and therefore we can expect ABC. This hasn’t happened before, and the unknown can be quite terrifying.
With schools closed, I spent most of the day learning how to teach online. I am learning as I go, as are some of my students. In that sense, this is a great thing; we will all be smarter for it! There are, however, so many questions. And as we jump in feet first to this C situation, more questions arise than we even anticipated in the beginning.
It's unsettling. I don’t care who you are. You can listen to one camp who says this will all be over soon. There is, though, the other camp who says this is going to last for weeks and weeks, indefinitely. I think, however, both sides would have to agree that eventually, eventually things will go back to normal. And we will be smarter then. And we will have experience. And the next time something like this pops up, it won’t be quite as scary.
The disrupted plans. Ah, we mice and men. My own son is home from college, an academic refugee of sorts, seeking out high speed internet where he may, to continue his studies online. My friend Amy, who was retiring after this year, had no retirement send off, nor farewell to students nor friends. There were no pictures nor cake nor cards and heartfelt sentiments. She’s just done. Ripped off like a Band-Aid. Don’t come back. And this year’s seniors….we can only still hope they will get to have a proper graduation and prom, never mind the lost time with friends.
I told my son the other day, “You will remember this. You will tell your children about it.” It freaked him out mildly for me to say that. The notion implies something epic is going to happen, and again, unknown. But hasn’t it already? Just as we older folk remember September 11, or the Blizzard of 93, or where you were when anything momentous happened, we will all remember this time now. We are living in history.
From history we can learn. I spoke the other day with my friend Randy Umbarger. He smiled and the conversation came to, “Well, it beats a snowball.” I had never heard that. He explained that his grandfather had told him of 1918. He said his grandfather told him that it snowed every month that year. He said he questioned his grandfather: Did it really snow in July? He confirmed. It might not have snowed inches on the ground, but it did indeed snow every month that year.
The corn wouldn’t grow. There was no hay to make. They fed the cows old, moldy hay and sprinkled salt on it so they would eat it. They went to the woods and gathered maple leaves to feed, for the sugar content. He asked his grandfather, didn’t the cows dry up? He said of course they did! But the cows didn’t die. And neither did they.
That was also the year of the great flu. It was the largest, most deadly pandemic in history. People everywhere were sick and dying, and those who weren’t, were afraid. It was also the fourth year of World War I. And the same year was one of the coldest recorded. Randy said, “Now with all that going on at the same time, don’t you know those people probably thought the world was coming to an end?” And he smiled at the thought and that his grandfather said, “Beats a snowball.”
I cannot imagine. And I look at us now. Panicked over toilet paper.
Just as our parents and grandparents lived through that time, so will we, if it’s the Lord’s will, and if it ain’t, ain’t none of us can do anything about it. We gonna have to be tough or get out of the way.
As in any time of stress, I self-soothe. I tell myself what I want to hear. Tonight as I built my fire, I rambled to myself in my mind as I ramble now to you. Says I to me, “You gotta know how to place the wood. You gotta get some air in there. The dry wood is better, of course. That split pine will do just fine. A little paper, a little kindling, a little time...yes, there she goes.” There is peace in predictability. There is comfort in knowing there have been hard times before and even if it seemed there could be no way to go on, people did. I reckon it was quite a sight worse then than it is now. So everything is gonna be alright. I promise. Eventually. Until then, hang on tight. We gonna have a great story to tell our grandchildren.
A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at email@example.com.