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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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Dan Dodge

The other day driving home from an errand, I heard a young mother complain about the Covid isolation.  She said she felt all alone and that her toddlers were not being socialized.  While I felt bad for her because I understand that it is difficult to be a young mother with tiny children and be stuck at home, I thought listening to her complaint, that she had not thought through what she could do to make her life better.  It made me think of my own mother during WWII.   During the war, my brother and I were preschoolers and later on before the war ended, we were in elementary school.  I never heard my mother complain that she was all alone while my father was out working, and I never saw her angry because she only had two little kids for communication.

Mom was definitely isolated during those years.  First of all, because of the war effort, there was little or no travel; gas was rationed and so were tires.   My mom was busy with our huge victory garden and busy with the canning of fruits and vegetables that put food on our table all year.  She volunteered to be an airplane spotter, but that was another area of total isolation.  My brother and I were fascinated with the tower where she was all alone and very impressed with her field glasses.  She showed us how she could spot the silhouette of an airplane and identify it, although truthfully there were very few planes that flew over our small rural community.   Most days, mom’s job was keeping up the house and looking after two rambunctious youngsters.

During both the summer and in our long, cold winters, mom kept us, Wally and me, busy with all kinds of projects.  She made sure that we both could read before we went to school and in addition, she read to us in the afternoons and again before we went to bed.  She taught me how to blanket-stitch small squares of linen to make fine handkerchiefs.  I loved sitting quietly rolling the hems on those little pieces of cloth and making stitches so small they were hardly visible.  Best of all was her praise for my fine sewing.

She always had a jigsaw puzzle out on a card table for Wally to work on because he had an excellent ability in spatial relationships.  Whenever he was bored, she would sit with him for a few minutes and work on the puzzle until he was completely engrossed in it.  Then she would return to the meal preparation, or the laundry or the numerous correspondences that she kept up during the war.

But what I most remember were the treasure hunts, she designed for Wally and me.  In our tiny house in the winter and out on our considerable acres in the summer, my brother and I found clues written up by her that would lead us finally to a treasure.  One that I can recall were clues on little bits of folded paper hidden in all the nooks and crannies in the house.  Because Wally could not read as well as I could at that time, mom would draw little pictures for clues.  When her drawing showed a thimble, Wally knew immediately to run to her sewing machine and find the next clue, which was a simple sketch of the butter plate.  Mom was not a talented artist, but she could draw well enough that we could recognize the clues from around our home.  When I think of it now, I can only picture the effort that went into the drawings and her desire to make us kids happy with something tangible for spending out time.  Did that socialize us?  Well, we certainly had to get along on those treasure hunts as well as communicate with each other. The treasure, by the way, was usually a pack of Beechnut gum.

I think about that young mom complaining about her social isolation, but I bet she can drive places, probably take her kids to the park, pick up books at the library and purchase fast-food meals that would please her and her youngsters, all things not open to my mom at that time.   I wish my mom was alive to give that young mother some hints on how to make the hours go by quickly.  Anyway, I agree that social isolation is difficult, but if all we do is complain about it, then the hours drag when it could be a time of contemplation and a time of finding ways to give to others.  My mother would never have wasted a minute of her war isolation, and she would have figured out the best way to fill the days with joy and blessings.

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About the Contributor
Maryann Nunnally, Contributing Writer
Maryann Nunnally is a retired high school principal and professional comedienne. She writes the regular column Laughing through the Golden Years for Cape Fear Voices.