Covid 19 has shrunk my world, but there is still much joy in it. I’ve replaced the busy-ness of going and doing with staying and un-doing.
During the day, instead of getting dressed and meeting someone for an activity, I’m home in sweatshirts and loosey-goosey pants and limp hair with that flat spot in the back from sleeping on it, zero make-up, no polish on my toes or shoes on my feet.
Instead of going out, I’m excavating closets and cabinets. I found my old ballet slippers from a class I took in college in the hall closet where my daughter had stashed them years ago. Well, one of them. She probably lost the other and hid the “sole” survivor.
All hell broke loose in Oregon last weekend. We had snow, freezing rain, ice, power outages, and the worst – no TV! You don’t realize how truly alone you are until you’ve lost the internet and TV. My husband’s mom came to our house for two days because her power was out, and while she was here our power went out. We were forced to play Scrabble by candlelight to entertain ourselves, and then she beat me. “The game was rigged!” I whined.
Then we heard that in Texas hell actually did freeze over, bursting people’s water pipes and causing power outages and water shortages. The news was full of tragic stories about couples with four kids having no power or water in a freezing house. Many of them left their homes to stay with relatives or friends. In times of trouble, strangers step up, but it’s easier to call your mom or son or a friend to help.
Some of us don’t have nearby relatives, and some don’t have friends. It’s hard to make connections when you’re busy all the time, or prefer your own company so you don’t have to share the remote control. It also takes courage to have friends, because there’s always the risk of rejection. They might not invite you to a party, or they choose someone else to go with them to the beach. If you’re busy all the time when they call, they eventually quit calling. Plus you have to be nice to them. That sounds flippant, but really, you can’t insult your friends or do mean things to them because they’ll put up with it for a while but eventually they’ll find a new friend.
Friends, like husbands, are work. To stay connected to them, you have to be there in the good times and in bad. You have to call them even when you’re busy. That’s always my problem – I get so busy that I wait for people to call me or initiate activities. That’s why, for Lent this year, I’m going to prioritize friends. When they call I’ll call right back instead of doing ten things on my To-Do list first. Maybe I’ll even initiate some activities. Even with Covid we can still take walks or meet outside for tea and sympathy.
Speaking of Covid, it’s really been hard on those people who love being around others all the time – the people who always, ALWAYS invite you to come over whenever you talk to them. My friend Laurie is like that. She’ll call some mornings to check in and every time will say, “You should come over and see my (whatever project she’s working on).”
Every month Laurie does a printing project for her printers’ group’s “bundle.” February’s theme was Edgar Allan Poe. Over breakfast at Gators (they have outside seating) we worked on a poem based on Poe’s “The Raven” – you know, the one that says, “quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’” Laurie wanted the poem to be about Covid and how it’s keeping us away from our friends. I told her I’d write the poem using Poe’s rhyme scheme, which turned out to be one of those, “no good deed ever goes unpunished” kind of things. I see why Poe was famous – “The Raven” has a complicated, convoluted rhyme scheme, or, as Wikipedia puts it: The poem is made up of 18 stanzas of six lines each. Generally, the meter is trochaic octameter – eight trochaic feet per line, each foot having one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed syllable…The rhyme scheme is ABCBBB, or AA,B,CC,CB,B,B when accounting for internal rhyme.
I wrote the poem as best I could, based on her ideas, and she carved two crows/ravens out of wood blocks to print on the bottom of each half sheet. They are very cool. The girl raven is wearing a string of pearls, and there’s a heart between them. Under my poem it says, “Happy Valentine’s Day” since it’s February. See the proof copy she gave me below – a little of the ink is too light on one of the raven’s tail feathers, but you get the idea.
In lieu of all the craziness in the world right now, I encourage everyone to seek out friends, even if you’re busy, even if you’re shy, even if you don’t know how. Google it! You need friends in times of crisis, and friends make the good times even better.
When my daughter comes home from college and the land line rings, I yell, “DON”T ANSWER IT!” She always wants to – she thinks it might be her grandmother or somebody. It’s not.
Reminds me of growing up, when we always answered the phone. That was a long time ago, before cell phones and answering machines, in the days when the phone rang and you could count on it being a relative or friend or someone you did business with. During my teenage years back in the days of the dinosaurs, I was either on the phone talking to friends for hours, or I wasn’t in the house.
My dad worked out of town and was only home on intermittent weekends. He was one of those guys who took the newspaper with him into the bathroom when nature called. He’d be in there reading the sports page when the phone rang. Back then, though, there weren’t lying, cheating jerks who wanted to fleece us over the telephone. So when the phone rang, we answered it. Also, because there weren’t answering machines, the phone just kept ringing. Teenage girls figured you were in the bathroom popping zits or something and they’d just let it ring until you got done and answered. Or, if they were lucky, your cute brother would pick up the phone and you could talk to him until he realized it wasn’t one of the girls in his class but some dumb kid.
After a few thousand rings my dad would throw the newspaper down, pull up his pants, clutching them at the waist because he had to return to the bathroom and finish up, and stomp to the phone. He thought that if the phone was ringing all that time, it must be an emergency. He growled, “HELLO!” Either the friend thought to herself, “Oh crap,” and hung up on him, or she said in a mouse’s voice, “Is Suzy there?” He yelled, “NO!” and slammed the phone down.
My superstitious traditions didn’t protect me when I went skiing with my brother last week. I know, I know, superstitions are ridiculous. I’ve stepped on a lot of cracks and never broke my mother’s back. But still…
On Thursday my brother and I headed to the mountain. I like skiing with him because he’s as bad a skier as I am. On the hour and a half ride to get to Timberline, there are two things we always do because, I don’t know about him but for me, I think if I don’t do them something unfortunate might happen on the slopes.
If you’ve never skied, let me assure you, it’s dangerous. You’re going way too fast on snow and ice with your feet strapped to two boards that could turn on you at any minute. One board could go into a track left by a previous skier and follow that line, or you can “catch an edge,” while the other board keeps going straight. You’ve probably seen it happen in cartoons. Usually you can force the wayward ski to behave, but if it won’t, you fall. Which can hurt, but mostly it’s just a LOT of work. Picture a walrus in the Arctic trying to get up on an ice floe, grunting and swaying and bellowing. That’s like one of us struggling back up from a fall, covered in snow like a powdered donut – well, not really, because a walrus is more graceful. Also you can get hit by a beginning snowboarder who’s going too fast and hasn’t learned how to stop yet except to ram into you and flatten you like a steamroller.
That’s the reason traditions/superstitions come into play. We want all the help we can get. The first thing we do, on the way up to the mountain just past the town of Sandy, is salute a metal sculpture. My son started that one when he was just a toddler. On a road trip going toward Mt. Hood he spotted a metal sculpture of a skeleton riding a Harley in someone’s side yard. He shouted, “Skelekos Rider!” because that’s the best he could do at such a tender age. So every time we go on Hwy. 26 and we pass that sculpture, we raise one fist in the air like the man on the Harley and say, “Skelekos Rider!”