Photo by Brooke Lark
By Marilyn Pellini
“There will be a hot time in the old town tonight.”
That will be the feeling on the eve following the eradication of this horrific virus. We should be able to finally leave our homes totally unencumbered, mask and gloves hopefully no longer needed. Wearing those may be a habit hard to break, though. We’ve become obsessed with germs — though, admittedly, frequent handwashing is probably a habit we should carry forward.
One time when I was teaching, I asked my class if they’d like to conduct a little experiment with the other fourth-grade room to see if we could reduce the number of kids who got sick during the school year and had to stay home to recuperate. In our classroom, we were fortunate to have a sink. This was before those push bottles of liquid soap became readily available, but I made sure there was a bar of soap in a soap dish available at all times, and I even scrubbed the sink daily. I instructed my students to keep our plan secret from the other fourth-grade group. The other teacher (who was not at all a germaphobe like I was, being an asthmatic) would not alter the usual routine in her classroom. My fourth-graders always washed their hands after using the lavatory or after a cough or sneeze, and certainly before lunch and after recess and gym. We washed the desktops every Friday afternoon and all of the tables and counters in the room with soap and water before our weekend break. Both teachers kept track of the number of excuses that were written by parents for their child’s illness.
There was a marked difference in the health of my students versus the other classroom. I have a feeling that my kids carried this idea that handwashing could prevent much sickness forward into the rest of their lives.
When we can finally go back to a somewhat normal lifestyle, I think we’ll all want to get together with our loved ones once again. We may not be able to do the hugging and kissing we once did, but I’ll bet there will be lots of elbow bumps, blown kisses, and arms crossed on our chest to show an encompassing hug. We’ll hopefully never have to worry again about someone at a party double-dipping into the hummus with potato chips or carrot sticks.
There will be a gala celebration at the local beauty parlors and barbershops for sure. Not only will everyone desperately need a haircut and color, but everyone will be eager to gather there because these are places where we bond. Every tonsorial and hairdressing establishment abounds with stories that clients have revealed in confidence. A beautician or barber is often a better sounding board and dispenser of practical advice then even an experienced professional counselor. For older women especially, seeing the same fellow customers in the beauty parlor each week allows them to form a special kind of camaraderie.
Eating in a restaurant will be great fun once again when we don’t have to be served by masked waiters and waitresses and seated six feet apart from all other diners. I rather enjoy that busy-sounding din when an eating establishment is full. Also, I’m not a fan of al fresco dining; the food gets cold and the buzz of traffic is annoying. Give me a white tablecloth, cloth napkin, a good meal, attentive wait staff, etc., and I’ll be in heaven. A cosmo or margarita with salt to start my dinner would be a treat too, but you can hold up on the glass or two of wine with my meal. I’d much rather use up those extra calories on a nice, gooey, decadent chocolate dessert, but only if it’s homemade on the premises.
When it comes to relating to our fellow man, there’s no place that connects us more than our office or place of business. I’ll bet there will be lots more coffee cakes brought into the lunch room and more birthday cards circulated for everyone to sign. We didn’t know how much we cared about our work associates until we were separated from them for so long. Although many businesses will simply not make it, and more will insist their staff work from home, many more places will readily and happily go back to their regular routine. Being glad to still have a job, bosses will probably see a rise in productivity, and workers and management alike will form deeper relationships with their colleagues.
Every holiday that comes up reminds us of what it means to be an American and has us joining together to celebrate. Each New Year’s is a chance to look forward to the months to come. Valentine’s will see us remembering those we love, Fourth of July will have us grateful for our liberty, and even Thanksgiving will seem all the more meaningful, as it reminds us of those brave, original pilgrims to this land. We may even see and experience a return to patriotism if we all survive this chaos, sickness, and downturn in jobs and wages; we will come back as only Americans can. We will likely love and respect our land with renewed fervor.
We always have been fond of celebrating achievements. The team’s trophy for winning a softball game, making the honor roll, being elected chairman of a community organization — all are milestones in our lives and the lives of those we love. We want to turn them into very special events. We may purchase a small gift as a remembrance, send a card of congratulations, or propose a toast at a dinner party to mark the special event. There are endless ways and reasons for celebration. After this horrible virus is under control, we may not even need a specific reason to have a celebration!
Oh, how sorry I feel for those kids who never had a full senior year of high school or college, went to prom, or attended their graduation ceremony. Teens always love to sleep in, have just a bit of homework, and spend more time at home, but this is absurd! They’ve been wanting to return to classes, their teachers, and most of all their friends. If they were in this year’s graduating class, there are other students they may never see again in their entire lifetime. Let’s hope, though, that this separation will have them looking forward to all class reunions and attending each and every one of them. My own class was so small that at our reunion every five years, we stood and gave a little synopsis of what had transpired with us during the ensuing years. It was just amazing what people had done and accomplished in their lives. I’m so hoping that will be the case with all of the graduates of the year 2020.
Moving forward is one way to put this catastrophic time to rest, with the knowledge that many postponed celebrations are certain to follow. Just think how it will feel to fête the bride and groom on their wedding day. We’ll delight in buying booties and stuffed animals for babies who are born to relatives and friends. There will be celebration upon celebration once we can come together again. That is truly something to look forward to!
Marilyn Pellini has recently published a grief book entitled Dear Al, A Widow’s Struggles and Remembrances. It has been selling quite well. Her other credits as a writer include a recent article in Brick Magazine entitled “Memories in My Button Jar,” pieces in Westchester Parent Magazine, Bay State Parent Magazine, On The Water, Balanced Rock, and others which she would be happy to provide copies of upon request. In May of 2018, she took the first place prize in the N.Y. State Federation of Women’s Clubs writing contest.