Mom pulled a stack of neatly folded fabrics from a drawer, held it up and said, “These are Grandma’s scarves. Do you want them?”
She was emptying out her recently deceased mother’s apartment, and I’d gone along to help.
“Yes,” I said. I didn’t really – I’m not a scarf person – but what would happen otherwise? The giveaway box? The trash? Mom was there to clean out, not collect keepsakes.
I recognized a few of the scarves and remembered Grandma wearing them. So, while I’m not a scarf person, I am – sometimes – sentimental, and I took Grandma’s scarves.
Eventually I’d pack the stack in my suitcase for my trip home to San Francisco. The stack would reside in a drawer, not used and not thought about, until I packed the stack to move to Dallas. Same with moving to Michigan, and then San Diego: the stack of scarves went into a box, then out of the box and into a drawer.
Not used and not thought about, until news stories started appearing suggesting that medical personnel may be forced to resort to wearing scarves:
And for the general population, health experts began suggesting that just about any face covering was better than none. Like William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, in this NPR story on March 31:
“Homemade masks, shawls, scarves and anything that you can conjure up at home might well be a good idea. It’s not clear that it’s going to give a lot of protection, but every little bit of protection would help.”
I don’t have a sewing machine so I can’t do homemade masks, and I don’t own any shawls.
But scarves – I had scarves somewhere, didn’t I?
Grandma’s seven scarves.
I found them in a drawer, spread them out on my bed, and actually looked at them for the first time since Mom had handed them to me:
Large and small, squares and rectangles. Two were silk, the rest untagged or tags removed. I decided to wash and dry them, except the one marked “Dry Clean Only.” That one went back into the drawer.
For the most part, Grandma liked color in her scarves, like this one:
And this one:
How did this pale thing sneak into the group?
I decided that based on the news stories I was watching and reading, Grandma’s scarves would do as well as these:
I wondered what Grandma would think about her scarves as potential face masks.
I wondered what Grandma would think about these dangerous, uncertain times.
But dangerous, uncertain times would not have come as a big shock to Grandma. She lived a long life, and here are some of the world events she lived through:
|Panic of 1893 (1893-1897)
Spanish-American War (1898)
Philippine-American War (1899)
Panic of 1901 (1901)
Panic of 1907 (1907)
World War I (1914-1918)
Polio Epidemic (1916-1955)
Influenza Pandemic (1918-1920)
|Great Depression (1929-1933)
World War II (1939-1945)
Korean War (1950-1953)
Vietnam War (1955-1975)
Asian Flu Pandemic (1957-1958)
Hong Kong Flu Pandemic (1968)
London Flu Pandemic (1972-1973)
AIDS Pandemic (1981-present)
Grandma grew up on a farm near Madison, South Dakota, one of 13 children, and they experienced plenty of local challenges, too.
Invasions of grasshoppers “resembling clouds of dust darkening the sky” would damage or destroy crops. Droughts and prairie fires in the summer, blizzards and sub-zero temperatures in the winter, and the first few years of Grandma’s life are described in local history books as a “period of great depression and hard times.”
Grandma wouldn’t have scorned the scariness of COVID-19. Instead, I think she would have offered one of her favorite phrases – one I heard her say often:
“You just keep on keepin’ on.”
So today, for the first time in 10 days, I’m going to venture out, grocery list in hand, armed with one of Grandma’s scarves wrapped around my face.
I will keep on keepin’ on.
We will keep on keepin’ on, because that’s what we do.