Maybe I could turn into my mother. I always marveled at her good cheer as she coped with the vicissitudes of life, especially as she aged. A lifelong social worker by proclivity and training, she never seemed to grow discouraged with her clients or her situation.
She adapted to my father’s questionable schemes – lighting out for British Columbia with two little girls to build and live in a log cabin out in the woods, then a move to pre-statehood Alaska. She loved Alaska, but happily ended up in Washington, and toward the end of her life, when I called her each day while cooking dinner, she’d tell me about her day. Little things cheered her – 15 minutes of sun on a Washington winter day sufficed. Except when she’d watched too much CNN. Then I would lecture her about succumbing to the anxiety created by news she could do nothing about.
That sort of news inundates us now: the horrifying rise in COVID-19 cases, the shameful attempts to discredit Dr. Fauci, the idiotic fighting about masks, the looming threat of another shutdown, the dismantling of 50-year old environmental regulations, the corruption and incompetence in the allotment of our money meant to help the victims of the pandemic, the Rose Garden turned into an arena of political theatre and lies, the absolute disgust born of watching Trump hawk a supporter’s food products from the Oval Office, Federal agents in riot gear (unwanted by local authorities) patrolling Portland streets and harassing peaceful protesters, the threatened evictions of people who’ve lost their jobs, small businesses closing forever, the death of John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s fragility. The ubiquitous virus itself.
You can’t counter any of that with happy talk, and it isn’t good-cheer-no-matter what I’m searching for (as I fight the CNN part of my mom). I think I want to not let the everyday things that are part of a small safe life go unremarked.
Sometimes it’s as simple as order: the kitchen counters cleared and wiped that greet me in the morning, a stack of completed masks ready for mailing, their colorful ties dangling off the ironing board, the bags and boxes of possessions from the bluff dispersed, the linen closet organized, so, instead of chaos, the folds of patterns and faded colors greet me when I open the door, the refrigerator clear and ready for the privilege of weekly provisioning, and, before it’s time to wear them again, a stack of winter sweaters finally washed and put away.
Sometimes it is pure joy: when a FaceTime call rings, I picture the sweet face that will fill the screen. And I try to note fleeting summer pleasures: bare feet, eating breakfast and lunch outdoors at a wobbly table under an umbrella next to St. Francis, fresh raspberries, corn, tomatoes, flowers to paint.
And, as I write, it’s rain – a good thing – warm rain at midsummer – just when we need it.