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Comstock Chronicles: Things Organizing Themselves

I was watching Portrait Artist of the Year, a BBC show Philip found on Youtube where artists compete by painting some famous Brit. Charles Williams, one of the artists, throws out several paintings before deciding he'd got it right. Williams was asked what he was learning through these attempts, and he said. "My eyes are getting more and more used to what I'm looking at. The more I look, the more I understand. You see things in a terrific panic, and then you gradually calm down and things begin to organize themselves."

I thought that perfectly described the way food, space, and time have rearranged themselves this last week as my children are no longer in school, I've become their teacher, Phil is home from work, grocery stores supplies are limited, and social gatherings are canceled. In addition to that, a week of rain has prevented outside activities. The house feels small and crowded, and while I'm never isolated, I do feel cut off from the rest of the world. Even Grandma Seelye said she'd never experienced something like this before in her life.

Yesterday, I sat on my front porch bundled in an old quilt with a warmed bean bag across my lap, and I watched the rain come down in gauzy sheets that darkened the tree trunks and sent rivers down the gutters. Sea gulls were crying and so were sirens, but I couldn't see either. I couldn't see anyone from my place on the front porch where I sat opposite a row of cosy craftsmen homes with crisp clean paint.

The front yard has become my private room during Benny's nap and the children's break from each other. It is probably the most beautiful room in the house and I'm savoring the moments of relative silence. Our neighbor across the street occasionally peaks out her window and waves at me. Today she came out to get her newspaper, saw me, shrugged and went back inside.

Each morning begins with a walk, weather permitting, and this morning we went by Blanche and Rosie's house. We stopped by their chain link fence where the Scarlet Firethorn bush bulges out onto the sidewalk. My children pushed doggie treats through to the ladies who yelped and leapt until they'd gotten their fair share. Then I poked my fingers through the wire to give the girls' necks a scratch. They're not maintaining a 6-foot distance.

Robin and David Cox opened their doors to us and we had a brief porch chat together. Robin, through the screen on her front window, and David on the side porch. The children climbed their fig tree and tasted nasturtiums. Robin reminded me how suddenly the most common of people have become heroes, the grocery store checkers, that is. Here they are risking their lives, daily submitting themselves to serve grumpy, demanding, and rude people. How very true, I thought, and part of me wished I was a grocery store clerk too. At times, I think that might be easier than being a mom.

The cheery checker who helped me yesterday at Vallarta Supermarket took one of my gallons of milk off the conveyer belt, saying only one was allowed per household, but he let me have my Lactaid milk. He said if I wouldn't tell, he wouldn't either. I left feeling blessed and full. Phil had asked me to buy a big bag of dry milk a few weeks ago, so there was always that. Besides, I'd gotten my 18 eggs, a whole chicken, and a bag of brown rice that I'd found in the automobile repair section. We have more than enough.

I was rather surprised to find our counters full of food the next morning. JDO Mediterranean food is temporarily closing its doors and Simeon came home from his last day with several packages of pita bread, onions, potatoes, and a huge tub of rice in addition to a large take-out box of cooked rice. I think we have too much food now. We'll plan the next week of meals accordingly.

We have ensconced Phil and his desk in drapery to separate him from the rest of us while he works remotely and I homeschool the children. Noise canceling headphones are on the way, and as soon as the weather clears, I hope to set up a schooling classroom outside beneath an umbrella with twinkle lights and an outdoor heater, a rug, table, a few potted plants, and a busy box for Benny. I think the place with suit us just right for the brief time I attempt to teach my children.

Let me tell you, I have never appreciated our school's teachers more than now. Even now they're still giving of their time. Many of them are at home, having to parent and teach their own children while guiding twenty-seven parents on how to teach their children too.

Granada Heights Friends Church children's staff led my family and at least a dozen other church families in songs over Zoom on Wednesday. Each miniature picture on our big screen TV showed us a window into each of those families' homes. I was nearly moved to tears by it. Another blessing. Blessings upon blessings: milk, my library loans extended, Tim White gifting us this outrageously large TV last Christmas, prayer meetings held over Zoom, heaps of food, and new routines getting established.

"O heart sore tried! though hast the best
That Heaven itself could give thee,—rest,"
(John Greenleaf Whittier Snowbound: A Winter Idyl Lines 386-387)

I hope in the midst of it—for all this change has had its awkwardness and discomforts—that I can be like the mother in Whittier's Snowbound:

"And while, with care, our mother laid
The work aside, her steps she stayed
One moment, seeking to express
Her grateful sense of happiness
For food and shelter, warmth and health
And love's contentment more than wealth."
(John Greenleaf Whittier Snowbound: A Winter Idyl Lines 602-607)


jgd said…
Lovely, Abby.
I didn't mean to shrug. But mayhap it seemed so.
Love Mr. J.G. Whittier's poetry.
And yours as well.

I remember long snowed in winters on the farm as a child, and the quarinteens ( *sp) for measles, mumps, whooping cough, and others, and my Mother, so patient and kind. She, too loved poetry and had a wonderful memory and could keep us quiet while reciting so many, old rhymes, and stories.

I love to watch your family play in the front yard.

You are wonderful neighbors. Let me know if you want oranges. They are ready now.

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