As I write I am sitting at a desk that is over one hundred years old. It belonged to my grandmother, the newspaper reporter. Perhaps she too sat at this desk during the flu pandemic of 1918 and wrote a column. What would she have said to her readers?
She, like me, had never experienced anything like this. By the time 1918 rolled around, she had been married to a small town doctor for 4 years. She was 40 years old with a 2 year old son. Another son would join the family when she was 42 years old. In all probability she was on a hiatus from her reporting days.
I never knew her as she died when I was six months old. I have heard stories though. Sadie May was the daughter of a sea captain, raised in Wells, Maine and graduated from Berwick Academy. She tried teaching for a while, but determined that was not the career for her. She traveled extensively in Europe with a girlfriend (a rather shocking and forward thing to do at the time). She took the train cross country to California, seeing Hollywood when it was a field. She visited Yellowstone National Park and stayed at the Old Faithful Lodge. And then in her mid-thirties, she married a friend of her brother’s and settled down to raise a family in rural Maine.
From the stories I have been told about her, I know she was a lifelong learner, avid reader, an inquisitive soul, and a woman of strong opinions. I think of her as a mature adult, newly married, with a toddler. What if the flu epidemic reached their corner of the world? How would she protect her family, particularly with her husband being the only doctor?
I think she would do the things she knew best to do. She would take care of her toddler, enjoying the smiles, cleaning up the messes, taking opportunity to laugh whenever she could. She would make the overnight oatmeal of family legend. She would iron those shirts, mend those socks, and feed those chickens. She would read her many books. She would make sure The Doctor, as she called my grandfather, had whatever he needed to keep going. She would encourage her neighbors in any way she could. She would write regularly to her family and friends far away. Her garden would be well tended.
I think Sadie May would encourage us to treasure our loved ones, to stay connected with those far from us, to be brave, and to do the next thing that has to be done. I think she would remind us to live as people of hope and not despair.
I sit at her desk in the corner of my bedroom. Why? Because like so many, we are working remotely. I am in my bedroom because literally every corner of my home is occupied with little people. My oldest daughter and her family came home from Rwanda in March and are living with us. We went from a calm quiet home for the two of us to a very lively household of seven. The two year old knows I am behind this closed door. She will lay on the floor and shout for me through the crack at the bottom of the door. I think it best not to respond for now.
I am treasuring my loved ones who are near and those who are far. I stay in touch with my friends. I try not to overwhelm myself with distressing news. I take the recommended precautions for social distancing and face masks when I really need to be out and about.
I focus on what I can do, not what I can’t do. I can take a walk in the middle of the day. I can stop and watch the Great Blue Heron. I notice my blooming daffodils and enjoy the blooming star magnolia. I can play games with the six year old and read bedtime stories. I can continue to direct The River Center from the corner of my bedroom.
I am so thankful for the work of The River Center staff and volunteers as they support our community. I am thankful for the parenting groups, the individual parenting support, the referrals to needed resources, and the tax returns that are being completed. If you, your family or your neighbors need support, contact The River Center at 924-6800, email@example.com , or www.rivercenter.us.
Margaret Nelson, Executive Director