Masks, Grandparents, and Tragedy: Nova Scotia in the Times of Covid

I’ve been making masks, about 50/day for the past ten days, and raising lots of money for the Food Bank. I know many kids get a good chunk of their nutrition at school, when there is school, and I wanted to find a way to help them. I didn’t know the demand would be so great, and I suppose before long it will become mandatory to wear a mask whenever we’re out in public, buying groceries, etc. Oh, well. It’s good busy work during these strange times. Friends donated lots of sheets and t-shirts, which I’m ripping up for the ear loops as there’s a worldwide elastic shortage, not surprisingly.

 

The other day, I found myself dipping into my rag bag for mask-makings, and ended up using some pieces of sheets that I’m pretty sure my grandparents gave us for a wedding gift 33 years ago. It was from Nana and Gramps Mingo that I learned to sew. Nana had a turquoise Singer sewing machine, and I remember her patiently showing me how to thread it, etc., and how thrilled I was with the idea that you could actually make something useful from a sheet of fabric. I’ve always loved visiting fabric stores, looking at the array of prints, and for 15 years, before I got into the crazy writing business, I made toddlers’ clothing, cuddle duds, which gave me a chance to stay home with my kids. I wonder what Nana and Gramps, who were born in the first decade of the 20th century, would think of our Covid-infested world. Maybe they’d like the idea that the entire world has slowed down and become quieter, since they’d no doubt find our usual hectic pace a bit odd. I’m sure they did lots of scavenging during the Great Depression, another time when nothing went to waste. They were composting before composting was even a thing.

And one week ago, Nova Scotia was attacked violently and senselessly by a fiend impersonating an RCMP officer, driving a fully-marked car and wearing a uniform. Twenty-three innocent people lost their lives; countless family members, friends and community people are left devastated; all of this in very rural parts of our tiny province, areas previously most well-known for their peaceful, quiet beauty and friendly people. So many children and grandchildren left without parents and grandparents; there are no words for their kind of sadness. Support and messages of hope have flooded in from around the world, and Nova Scotians stand strong and united, but this is not the way those precious lives were supposed to end.(poignant art: Bruce MacKinnon,THE CHRONICLE HERALD)

Voices from the Past – Deleted?

I was looking through some of my mother’s things the other day, in particular a gold damask clutch full of letters and telegrams exchanged between my parents and IMG_20140514_0003grandparents as Mum and Dad were about to get married – in a hurry as was often the case in those days… 1957. More than fifty-seven years ago. That’s Nana and Gramps Mingo in the picture – aren’t they cute?

Each of their voices came across so loud and clear in their writing – it was almost as good as having a video or audio recording, yet they’re only words on paper. So I got to thinking – where is that kind of record being kept these days? letter writingTexts, email, phone calls/messages –  all are either deleted or forgotten about as soon as they’ve been read/heard. Seems  correspondence we keep and re-read is yet another casualty of our disposable world. Nothing lasts forever these days – coffee makers, stoves, fridges, washers, dryers, clothing, even pictures, and, sadly, lasting, honest person-to-person communication – ie. letters.

As authors, we infuse our fiction with lots of emotional detail from our real lives; our books will live on after we’re gone, but it’s not at all the same as writing a straight-little girl at mailboxfrom-the-heart note to somebody. It doesn’t take long to dash one off; on the rare occasion I write a letter, I often type it, simply because my handwriting is so atrocious – even Don can barely read my grocery lists.

I suppose the Internet was supposed to put an end to paper, but that hasn’t kept my filing basket from filling up with meaningless stuff. I’d prefer letters. Last week, I spent ten minutes digging up an address, then another ten writing a letter to legendary kids’ author, Patricia MacLachlan, whose work I’ve admired for years. Her book, Edward’s Eyes, is so incredibly perfect that I had to tell her. imagesI wonder if she’ll write back to me…

I miss getting letters, and I’m happy I’ve hung onto some old favourites – it’s so lovely to hear people’s voices long after they’ve died. Don’t you agree?