What would social distancing look like in Grandma’s Day? I wonder. My paternal grandmother, Anna, was larger than life to me. Granted, she was a sturdy 5 feet, 10 inches tall with a size 11 foot (imagine trying to find Chuck Taylors in the early 1900s that fit), but really Grandma was a woman of oversized kindness and generosity. (In this vintage 1955 photo, she is joined by my dad and Grand
From my earliest days I can remember, I visited with Grandma several times a week, and during my summers, often every day. You see, growing up in a rural Mayberry-size village of less than 175 people, my family only lived about six blocks from my grandparents. My grandfather passed away in 1967, so for her next 20+ years, Grandma lived alone. Yet she was never really alone, because her kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, neighbors, and church ladies kept her connected (even without texting and video chats . . . imagine that).
Oh, how I wish everyone in our world today could experience these good ole days of non-social distancing. The days of zipping on my blue cruiser bike to Grandma’s house. A tap-tap on her backdoor. Her treating me to her lemon cookies. I still wonder how Grandma could resist eating all of those scrumptious chewy wonders?
Getting Up with the Sun
Grandma patiently watched me look through her old photo albums, pointing out my dad in all the World War II snapshots. She read from her clasp-lock diaries to me about family gatherings, gardening, and her boys baling hay before the next thunderstorm deluge encroached. It’s no wonder Grandma was asleep by 9 each night—in her 80s she was still getting up with the sun to log a full day of gardening, baking, quilting, and journaling. With plenty of time to chat with me and answer my gazillion questions.
“Hey, Grandma, what do you call that flower?” “What’s that bug?” “Do you put real lemons in these cookies?” “Why do you always write about the weather in your diary?”
So social distancing in Grandma’s day? Some social separation was automatically built in by living in a Midwest hamlet where few people from other communities or cities ever visited. I don’t think any of our local leaders thought about invisible pathogens half way across the world making it to our pastoral town. They were more focused on crop yields and cattle prices than foraging for jumbo packs of toilet paper and oodles of hand sanitizer at the store. Hand sanitizer? What the heck is that? Just pick up a bar of soap, scrub well, and rinse.
Taking Everything in Stride
But if COVID-19 or some other wily virus did somehow threaten rural Nebraska back in the day, I think Grandma would take things in stride. She already survived the country’s 1898-1906 yellow fever pandemic, the 1916 polio epidemic, the 1917-1920 Spanish Flu, the late 1940s resurgence of polio, and the emergence of the Asian Flu and the Hong Kong Flu. All this was on top of the decade of the Great Depression.
What would Grandma Anna think about today’s stay-at-home and safer-at-home directives? Her perspective might be: hunkering down more with family? Great. Pass the lemon cookies. Wear facemasks in public? Here, I just made some from leftover quilting material. A panic-run on toilet paper? No worries. We grew up using corn husks and pages from the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog.
So to Grandma Lueders and all the other resourceful, resilient people who model how to bend and adapt and comeback through life-adjusting times. I say “thank you” for proving that the human spirit is a creation of tenacity and tenderness. Bless you for the reminder that while the coronavirus is horrendous around the globe, in time, this too shall pass. In spite of social distancing, we truly are all in this together no matter where we live.