Plague Diary: March 24, 2020

COVID / Plague Diaries / Uncategorized

When my mother was a little girl, she used to pretend she was a princess, captured by outlaws, and spirited away from her home. She always managed to creep away in the night, but miles from home and unable to get help, was forced to survive in an unfamiliar landscape, where she had to forage for food, construct rudimentary housing and survive indefinitely, in isolation, until she might find her way home. She did this for fun. She played it, by herself for hours, making jewelry out of dogwood trees and beds out of pine needles.

When I was a little girl, I used to pretend I was a princess, captured by outlaws, and spirited away from my home. I always managed to befriend one of the leaders of the outlaws, from whom I learned both valuable practical skills and political confidence as I gained firsthand insight into the widespread injustices of the kingdom. Ultimately, my insider know-how and insight on how to the expose the regime’s from within, while fomenting an effective and enthusiastic popular movement would led to me becoming one of the leaders of the outlaws, as we fought to depose my father the king, convert the monarchy into a republic and establish a more equitable, more democratic system for all the citizens. I did this for fun. I played this game, by myself for hours, strategizing popular coups, establishing policy initiatives for a new republic, and delivering rousing speeches before I was saved (last minute!) from my traitor’s end as the people stormed the castle.

In last night’s Facetime, Mom told and I recounted these two separate childhood pastimes, as digression away from a more general conversation about how people respond to epoch-shaping, whole-unit in AP History chapters of trauma and hardship. In real life, Mom never became a survivalist and I never became a revolutionary. Probably because both of us are way too fond of evening gowns. That said, Mom attributed her sanguine levelheadedness in face of plague all the way back to foraging for blackberries in the imaginary wilderness of suburban, Eisenhower-era Virginia. I suppose a lot of my careening around the last few days, in various shades of ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod, maybe has to something do with my Reagan-era childhood Joan of Arc (less religious. I was more of a universal suffrage, free speech, equal rights kind of gal) having no good target to conspire against.

But I suppose I still have an audience for my gallows speech. And the situation we’re in right now has laid bare so much inequity, widespread injustice, and the nihilistic course our current administration has charted to protect their most selfish priorities. Best case maybe we come out of this with a more equitable, more democratic system that privileges the health and wellbeing of all our citizens over the material concerns of glancingly few. Probably we do a better job taking care of each other. I hope, more than anything, we stop taking that power for granted.

Today, I went to pick up a dinner from a consortium of local restaurants, farmers, and food providers who are doing everything they can to keep both people and businesses in the community afloat. Friends and neighbors from the restaurant business were working together to load up people’s cars with boxes and organize the traffic, so we could all participate in this community thing absolutely together, as safely as possible, in a time when simply being together is an impossibility.

It was unexpectedly moving.

I drove home, a touch misty, thinking really and truly about how we really and truly are in this together. How it goes from here depends in large part on what we do (and literally don’t do) to support each other, to keep our communities afloat, to keep our friends and families and neighbors alive.

And that’s the coolest thing. That’s the best news. We’ve survived this far. If you’re reading this, you’re alive and so am I. And we still have a chance to do this right. As long as we’re still going, we’ll find ways to keep each other going. And I promise you, as long as I’m here, I’m here to help you, in whatever way I can, whether or not a revolution is technically required.

Note: I’ll probably wear a ballgown when we storm the castle. Deal with it.

Picture today is not particularly thematic to post, but I’m pretty sure it’s the best picture I ever took in the Harris Teeter parking lot (last fall), which is basically the only place I have to really sightsee in these times.

As of this writing, 107, 811 people have recovered from COVID-19.

The Author

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