I haven’t had my furnace cleaned this year. Back in December, just as the Omicron surge hit, I called the man who had installed my new furnace a few years ago and made an appointment for a maintenance cleaning and safety check. He arrived on time, which was a nice surprise. But when I answered the door, he was standing on my stoop, about two feet away from me, and wasn’t wearing a mask. (I was.)
I asked him if he had a mask in his truck. If not, I could give him one. (Back then, I kept a box of surgical masks on hand, in case. Now, I keep some extra KN95s.)
His answer “I don’t wear masks” was said with a good-ole-boy smile that I might have considered charming in other circumstances.
I was dumbfounded and just stared at him.
“Is that a problem?” he asked.
I said, “Yes.”
That brief interaction left me shaking and feeling violated. As the day progressed, I began to feel angry that someone would refuse to wear a mask in my home while a highly infectious virus was filling the hospitals yet again. Hell, this is my home! My anger eventually turned to righteous indignation.
Back then, the issues were clear. If you respected others and cared about public health, you wore a mask and socially distanced whenever you were outside your established bubble, and you got vaccinated as soon as possible. In contrast, those who refused to follow such basic protocols (which my grandmother would have called common decency) were the kind of people Read More
What is the perfect gift for a one-year pandemic anniversary?
Traditionally, folks would give something made of paper. I guess because couples who’d been married only one year didn’t have enough money for anything better. Or maybe because that was what they considered the true value of a one-year commitment. More modern gift registries recommend a clock for commemorating the one-year milestone. Well, I wonder how modern the people are who put together those registries, because I seem to be the only person I know who has (and wants) a clock in every room. Everyone else just looks at their phones, which seems to me an extra effort. First, you have to pull your phone out of your pocket. Then, wake it up. To check the time on my kitchen wall clock or my digital desk clock, all I have to do is glance in its direction. But I digress. This essay isn’t about the value of clocks.
Of course, now that I think of it, a clock would be a rather appropriate present for a pandemic one-year anniversary. For the past twelve months, time moved in bone-jarring jerks, sometimes feeling like a runaway train about to plow me under, then suddenly morphing into a slo-mo nightmare of trying to run in molasses. The gift of a clock would be an acknowledgement that, any day now, time will resume its usual tick-tock rhythms, marking seconds, hours and days with a uniform regularity. Read More
I return over and over again to hands, to touch, to the beginning of story which is also a type of touch my mother taught me. But in a time when loving means not touching, regardless of how much we ache for and need our loved ones’ touch, remembering my mother’s hands fills an emptiness that memory also creates.
A few days ago, the author Ellen Kushner posted a poem on Facebook, “Blackberries” by Margaret Atwood. In response, I wrote “I look at my hands and see my mother’s touch.” I knew it was the beginning of a poem, of such intimate memories that I wasn’t quite ready to sit down and let it flow through me. Some memories can’t be allowed to blossom until the heart is soft enough to not fear the pain and the beauty of lost loves, past moments that can never again be reclaimed. Then, this morning, I looked in the mirror, held my hands to my face, and I knew I had the strength once more to be soft.