Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Pandemic odds & ends

  • I watched the Queen's speech from Windsor Castle about the coronavirus crisis on Sunday afternoon -- and (while I'm admittedly a monarchist and a fan) I was surprised to find myself getting quite choked up. (I wasn't alone, as several of the commentators remarked afterward that they had found her remarks more moving than they had expected.)  It wasn't just her words & message (which were pitch perfect, I thought), but just... HER. The woman will be 94 years old soon, and whatever you think of monarchy as an institution, you cannot deny that she has done a remarkable job. Anyone under the age of 68 has never lived under another monarch. The continuity she represents, the history (which she alluded to by mentioning her first speech to the nation's children in 1940 during the Second World War -- 80 years earlier!!). She can speak with authority about overcoming hardship, because she has seen it happen so many times during her long life & reign. How many more times will we get to see her speak, at Christmastime or otherwise (which, as they noted, is generally pretty rare)?  I have no doubt that Prince Charles will be an excellent king someday... but we will miss her when she's gone. 
    • I got to see the Queen (relatively) up close & personal when I was 9 years old, in July 1970 -- almost 50 (!) years ago now. The province of Manitoba was celebrating its centennial ( = this year is 150) and as part of a royal tour that summer, she, Prince Philip, Prince Charles & Princess Anne came to Dauphin, about 45 minutes from where we lived at the time, for a Sunday morning church service, held at the grandstand at the fair grounds. (Prince Philip read the lesson.) My grandparents came for the occasion, and my sister & I wore the new dresses we had worn a month earlier at my aunt's wedding. The royal couple left the grounds in a convertible, and passed right by where we were standing behind a fence. "I could have reached out and touched her," my grandfather marvelled, and my dad captured the Queen waving with a white-gloved hand with our Kodak Brownie camera.
      • This reminds me that, years later, I saw a letter written by my grandfather's aunt (in the 1960s), describing how she and another aunt had gone to Winnipeg in 1939 to see the Queen's parents -- King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother). The aunt remarked that the King was "nothing to look at" but his wife was "a very handsome woman," lol. 
  • The list of COVID-related postponements & cancellations keeps getting longer. I previously mentioned the Elton John concert on March 29th that SIL & I had tickets for, which has now been postponed to some future date TBD in 2021. (We watched him host a "living room" concert for television from his home in Los Angeles that night instead. SIL expressed disappointed that he only sang a few bars of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" at the very end, accompanied by his son's keyboard. Apparently he's quarantined in the one house he owns that doesn't have a proper piano!!)  
    • Libraries are closed, so my book club meeting on March 30th was obviously cancelled. I don't expect our monthly meetings to resume for a while yet. 
    • Last Friday, I got an email notifying me that Mirvish Productions was extending the closure of all its Toronto theatres until June 30th -- i.e., no "Hamilton" on May 9th for us.  :(  We'll receive a Mirvish credit for our hard-won tickets (& can apply for a refund if we prefer). The remaining performances of "Hamilton" here have been cancelled;  they are hoping to negotiate a return engagement soon. Guess I'll just have to take my blood pressure pills and try again then!!
    • Great-Nephew's baptism was scheduled for June 14th, but it's highly likely that's going to be cancelled too. :(  
    • Not holding my breath for: 
      • any kind of celebration or getaway for our 35th wedding anniversary in early July. 
      • a visit home in late July for my parents' 60th wedding anniversary & a family reunion across the border in Minnesota. (The border is currently closed, and travel between Canadian provinces has also been restricted... flight schedules have been reduced and highway checkpoints have been set up on some provincial borders, where travellers are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.)  
    • We'll see...:  
      • dh's youngest cousin on his mom's side (age 41) announced his engagement around Christmastime. We knew the wedding was being planned for August;  last week, we got a "save the date" e-vite email for August 29th, which is usually right around the time we have a cousins' get-together anyway. It sure would be nice to see everyone & have something to celebrate, especially after all this...!  but I guess we'll see...! 
  • Jody Day has a great blog post up at Gateway Women about the experience of being childless during COVID-19 and the plethora of unwelcome advice we're getting on how to handle it (echoing some of my own recent thoughts on the subject...!). Go over & read!  Sample passage: 
And the weird thing is that here we are again, in the grip of a civilization-altering pandemic and it seems an awful lot of people are avoiding their own (and others) pain and grief by turning into relentless online advice-givers. 
Whether it’s a flashmob of You-Tubers and online-course creators wanting us to get all ‘productive’ during this time by mastering yoga moves or learning to ferment our own Kombucha – or their well-meaning antidote, the keyboard jockey meme-makers flooding Instagram with their gracious permission for us to ‘not be productive’ (I confess I was one of those, sorry!) And then there is the scheduling brigade, advising us how many minutes a day we should be devoting to staying fit, keeping positive, breathing, writing gratitude lists and managing our anxiety levels. Or whatever… 
It’s exhausting and I’m feeling oppressed by all the advice of ‘the right way’ to cope with a pandemic. I’m finding that it’s drowning out my own experience, just  like it did with my childlessness. And it’s starting to piss me off. Again.
In truth, barring the anxiety we’re all bearing for our loved ones, and those on the front lines, perhaps the biggest shift in my pandemic life thus far has been the sometimes-wild experience of having the world suddenly arrive at a place I’ve been living in for so long. All at once, I’m watching people publicly grapple with many of the aspects of life I’ve long considered normal but sometimes have a tough time articulating. 
To be single and without children after a certain age is to largely disappear off the cultural map, and I’ve spent the last few years struggling with how best to approach one of the unexpected challenges of my life: the need to create a language around my experiences so that others can understand. 
In fact, the devastating isolation I’ve sometimes experienced has almost always been the result of not being understood; of people not believing me when I say I’m happy. 
It has been somewhat shocking, then, to open Instagram and see a type of language emerge: to find posts about color-coded guidelines created to let people know what sort of alone you are (red, supplies are needed; yellow; isolated at home). To watch my Twitter feed fill with people advising their followers to check in with friends and loved ones. To tune into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s increasingly therapeutic news conferences, and listen to him talk about the difficulties of isolation and how to manage it. To abruptly begin hearing from friends daily who are newly coping with isolation. 
It has felt like a tidal wave rushing out to greet me and then carry me away with everyone else. Instead of being alone at sea I am suddenly just another member of a global experience. I am normal.
  • Civilla Morgan at Childless Not By Choice recently shared her thoughts on being childless during the current pandemic and offered some great tips on how to cope in her subscriber newsletter. Read it here!  


  1. I really enjoy hearing your thoughts on the Queen and the monarchy. The span of her reign, and the events she's ushered her people through is both historic and amazing. Fascinating that you have a letter from the 60s about the 1939 Winnipeg visit by the then King and Queen.

    Sad for all the cancellations. Let's hope that someday we'll confidently call them postponements -- and with actual days to reschedule them!

  2. Thanks for sharing about Jody Day's latest post! I really liked it, especially everything about grief at the end.

  3. So much awesome stuff here tucked inside the many disappointments of the pandemic. Love your memories of and thoughts on the Queen. I'm sorry about the zillions of cancellations, and that it just seems to stretch out further and further. And THANK YOU for all the shares of good stuff to read and check out! I'm moving the Glynnis MacNichol book up to be next read.

    Sending you love in this bizarre time!

  4. I can't remember how old when I got to see the Queen when she was in NZ too. The Britannia came to the city nearest us, and we went to see her.

    I thought of you today, with your cancelled Hamilton tickets. Search out (on youtube) SGN - Some Good News. It's John Krasinski. And he talks to a little girl whose Hamilton tickets were cancelled. Hint - it is well worth watching!

    You are normal. We all are. And yes, doesn't that feel a bit weird? Weird is normal at last. lol Though ... we're probably a bit weird in that this is not totally abnormal for us.

    I always use your post to catch up on childless blogs/articles that I have missed. Thanks for the sterling update service you provide!