My granddaughter and I were looking at a book about the solar system when we found a page on Haley’s comet. I told her that when the comet came by in 1986, I went out to a nearby lake with the astronomy club so that I could see the big event. I waited in line for over an hour to see a little, dull, blurry thing in the telescope. I thought the entire experience was quite a let down.
But it hadn’t been that way when my own grandma saw it in 1910. Grandma told me stories of how bright the comet was when she was a little girl. It was so bright that it confused the chickens in their hen house because it lit up the night sky. When I shared this with my granddaughter, she had many questions. She wanted to know when Haley’s comet it was coming again (around 2061) and how old she will be (50!) and if we can go back to the lake and see it together. I will be 104, but I told her that if I’m still alive, and if I can still see, we’ll go together!
She asked me lots of other questions too about what my grandma thought of the comet and what kind of food they had at their comet parties. Did they even have comet parties? Most of these questions I could only take a guess at. My grandma didn’t write anything down and I only remember what she told me. As far as that goes, I didn’t write anything down about my own sighting of the comet when I was 26 either.
All of that started to make me think about this unique time in our lives right now. This is the worst pandemic in my lifetime and the response to it has certainly been widespread and unique with consequences that have affected everyone we know. Shouldn’t we be writing and recording our experiences as we live through this part of history?
If anything, wouldn’t it be useful to write down our reflections about what has happened to us? Before the lock down, I was stressing out about preparing classes for our co-op, paying for piano lessons and getting my daughter to all of her many activities. My kitchen was styled in mid-century yuck, and my master bedroom had a trail of my husband’s wardrobe that circled around the bed and lead to the closet. My own closet was chock full of stuff I never wear and a pile of clothes that needed to be sorted through. Everything was going to get taken care of “someday.”
And then “someday” came and lasted two months. The class prep that once took up a good portion of my week was gone. I had time to read other things and binge watch some classic shows with my daughters. My drab kitchen got a total remodel with fresh paint and a new vinyl floor that we stood in line at the home improvement store with our masks on to get. I also pared down my clothes and got my husband’s belongings into one centralized location. This time has been productive.
It has strengthened my family too. My 20-year-old daughter and I have enjoyed watching all the old Mary Tyler Moore episodes. My newly college graduated son goes running every day with his 14-year-old sister. I’ve seen them sit together closely so he could protect her during the family Saturday night viewing of 80’s horror shows, like Alien.
We’ve made special memories with our faith as well. At the Easter Vigil, we made a campfire in the back yard and live streamed mass from our parish. When it was time for the Gloria, we rang the bells I had gathered for that purpose. Ours was a very ecumenical vigil fire. Besides our kids we also had neighbors named Samir and Ahmad. We were careful to keep up our social distancing of course, unless the smoke from the fire made us change our positions, which it inevitably did. It’s probably a vigil I will remember for a very long time.
I encourage you all to write down or record some of these memories for yourselves in years to come, or for your kids. How did you manage? How did you cope? What was good about it and what worried you? This time won’t last forever, but the memories and insights we gain from it, both good and bad, will be important to us in the future. Pass on the gift of this history by preserving it. You’ll be glad you did.
Copyright 2020 Elena LaVictoire