This morning, the headline in the Hartford Courant read, “Some ‘good news’ as hospitalizations drop.” I had lived in Connecticut for many years and still had family and friends scattered around the state, so I followed events in our neighboring state with more than an intellectual curiosity. I wrote last week about my sudden realization that we here in New York were on the recovery side of the mountain. Today’s announcement that Connecticut too was headed in the right direction, confirmed my inclination that it was safe to breathe again, albeit with a mask on, and I looked around to see where I had landed.
I knew too many were still dying and I had heard about the upcoming second wave, but I chose to push those thoughts aside, and savor the moment. I had spent enough time lost under the dark swell of the Pause, as the Governor called the lockdown here, and I still lamented the sad stories of grief and loss that continued to play across our several screens. However, I had learned from Rosemary the necessity of stopping to notice the good things in life, to celebrate them, even, and I chose to step into the clearing in my mind that the headline provided. I was still quarantined, and would be for some months to come. Past the first fears, the worst fears, where had I landed?
As a child, I was the one who excelled at catching diseases as they came around and I inevitably not only caught them, I seized each one and wrestled with it. My younger sister and I usually got ill at the same time: mumps, German measles, chicken pox, flu, and colds. My sister hardly skipped a beat in her life as she encountered these, but each one dragged me into bed for endless days.
My mother was not good with illness. It scared her. But she was patient, and she loved me. I remember coming out of a fever and not knowing how many days and nights had passed but, when I returned to awareness, my mother was sitting by my bed reading stories from a “Mother West Wind Why” book. Mostly, though, when I was sick, she furrowed her brow and wrung her hands, or, very occasionally, she prayed, her recourse in all difficult situations. My grandmother, hovering behind her, mirrored my mother’s movements.
Usually, though, somewhere in the lineup before turning to God, was my aunt. Aunt Marion lived on the other side of our duplex house, and she had had a brief career as a licensed nurse before she married my mother’s brother. More importantly, she had a practical mind and a calming manner. She suggested the most utilitarian of remedies–a wet cloth, an aspirin, or at some junctures, a call to the doctor, and my mother trusted her judgment. Under their care, I got better.
I look back fondly on those moments when I rose from my bed and made my way back into the land of the living, a time that was celebrated, in our house, with a magical drink we called a “fairy drink,” basically a milk shake with a raw egg and a food coloring of our choice, whipped into a froth. It was the first sustenance we took after any illness, a small note of celebration at the first note that the worst had passed.
This was the moment I stepped into today – the time-after-illness space. Earlier, I had been amazed that I got through it all, a survivor in awe of the world around me; now I was quite in love with the ordinary, the usual, the everyday. I ate breakfast and sat down for a brief writing practice with two dear friends.
After we wrote for about twenty minutes, I looked up from my paper at Rosemary, across from me, and at Paul, at the head of the table, on the computer screen. Pachelbel was playing, as background to our writing together, and the rays of the sun fell onto the lit candle, and on its holder–four pottery figures standing in a circle, with their arms around each other, a gift from a friend in another writing group. It was Saturday, a lovely spring day. We were writing early because Paul wanted to go biking. I planned to walk in the park across the street; I hadn’t been there for a month. The past week had been cold, rainy, and grey, and the upcoming week promised more rain every day. Today was a brief oasis and we all wanted to soak it in. I smiled as Rosemary picked up her paper and began to read. Maybe I would even make myself a fairy drink.