This is the second post by my long-time friend, Susan Marlow. Her first post was published on 28 March 2020 and this is somewhat of a follow-up.
by Susan Marlow – 18 May 2020
Each morning now after more than three months of restriction and isolation I wake up feeling constricted. As I come to, a small gasp escapes out of me and I realize I am still here and still isolated. I feel saddened as I realize this time is all too precious. I have adapted to this thing we call quarantine and I can continue, but I am not enjoying the isolation as much now.
I grumble my acceptance of this new way of life and stretch my body out on the mattress which we meant to replace months ago when it hit the ten year mark of discomfort. With no store to shop for it this mattress is condemned to continue servicing me. Then I take a deep breath of recognition that my day has begun. I thank God for this day.
Since I began in late February I have continued with my gardening and composting. I have 37 gallons of beautiful, sweet smelling dirt which will soon be ready for my garden. Meanwhile, I am experimenting with how to grow vegetables from food that we eat by planting the roots and stems. I have a big tub of bright green tubers growing from bits of potatoes. No potato famine here at this house. Come to think of it what does one potato cost? No matter . . . this is my victory garden.
The wall surrounding our pool equipment has been painted bright blue. The dog has had his hair cut a little- oh lucky pooch. My hair continues to grow like corn stalks sticking out every which way after the hay is collected into mounds,. Nothing to be done about that. I was already white haired before our quarantine began so I do not have to see one color disappear slowly in an awkward manner.
I am beginning to book zoom meets on my calendar—some back to back. It’s like being back at work with appointments to keep. Two zooms are for Funerals and one is for sitting Shiva. Today I will exercise with ladies in Woodstock, New York via zoom. The next birthday zoom is for someone who turns 100. Life and death continue.
During my long period of study and introspection I have come across two items which tell the story of how others, also restricted and far more deprived, nevertheless found ways to cope with fear, death, and massive loss of personal freedom, They too have left remembrances of a once impossibly difficult time in our not-too-distant past. From these little keepsakes we see the human spirit is quite resilient and forever hopeful.
The first is a delicate small fan, not unlike a cocktail fan, known by the name of a Wagasa. Look closely and you will see a familiar character; the symbol of Camel cigarettes. These delicate little fans were created using the only spare items available-in this case cigarette packages. It took great patience and a fine delicate handwork to create one of these. Even though it now resembles a little mai tai cocktail fan it has far more to say to us. Behind the stark wooden walls of an internment camp in the desert an unknown human spirit lived and created such beauty with whatever they had at hand while they patiently waited to see if their lives would, at some unknown point, resume and in what manner.
I also invite you to look at a tiny deck of cards, pictured below. Each one hand inscribed and beautifully drawn by my father during a perilous escape from Nazi Europe to Palestine, which was a beacon of safety and promise to Jews. This was a working deck of cards created from mini cigarette packages available during WWII. You can see a handwritten inscription in Latin on just one card, the Ace of Spades, Athlit, November 13, 1940. It is a poem and prayer by Horace, the Roman poet.
By then my father had been on that boat between 9-12 months. Those desperate souls were left on board a Turkish coal ship for many, many months. This was not a passenger ship. The bathrooms consisted of “walking the plank” and squatting out over the ocean in full view. There were no private rooms, just a large open space for coal storage. The “rooms” were created by internal scaffolding. This was an exodus boat headed to Israel carrying 2300 Jews from all corners of Europe. Perhaps they would be allowed to land or perhaps they would be turned back—like the St. Louis—to almost certain death. Meanwhile, those on board this boat waited and played cards together with a deck constructed of Chesterfield, Pall Mall, or Lucky Strikes packages patiently collected and artfully created. They waited as we wait.
So I look around and begin to think, what will I leave behind during this time of Covid19 to show my family that, while this isolation may seem like forever, it is actually far less. I try to embrace this time of waiting. I try not to think of the time as lost to me. It is my personal journey yes, but without the cigarettes!