It makes me smile to think how the pandemic brings back childhood memories of a summer my brother and I spent with my grandparents in Chincoteague. Life back then was simple, and simplicity is how I’m living my life in self isolation today.
Plans to attend weddings, graduations or annual visits with loved ones are put on hold, as are thoughts of shopping for a new car or scheduling a doctor’s appointment. Instead, I’m sewing face masks from YouTube videos, flipping through Grandma’s recipe cards for dinner ideas, or Googling tips for starting a vegetable garden. And, yes, my adult children moved in with me, and all of us work from home side by side, at least for now.
Slowing down in quarantine didn’t come easily to a city girl like me. These days I take comfort thinking back on that summer when my grandparents taught me certain skills I’m putting into practice today.
Chincoteague was not the upscale vacation destination it is now. Back then it was like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, where locals dressed in denim and plaid, spoke with accents barely discernible to urbanites, and frequented the only diner in town a few blocks from my grandparent’s home on Main Street. Every evening at sunset, we’d sit on our screened-in porch and peer across the street towards the harbor where fishing boats unloaded bushels of crabs or crates of fish into the backs of pickup trucks. My grandfather docked his boat at that same harbor, never missing a chance to take it fishing. On clear calm days, he’d load up his gear and signal for us to join him on board. As always, we’d head straight for the inlet, eager to catch the biggest flounder imaginable. In the evenings, I watched my grandfather clean fish with such precision, thrilled in knowing that in a few hours we’d have fried flounder for dinner.
During the lockdown, I committed to a community garden plot as a way to keep busy. At first, I worried I wouldn’t have the skills to maintain it. Then I thought back to that summer when my grandmother taught me how to plant rows of tomatoes, string beans and marigolds in our backyard. I learned that marigolds attracted beneficial insects that preyed on harmful garden pests so vegetables could flourish as they matured. She showed me how to make a trellis using fallen branches tied with string. Then she created a pyramid structure to support young tomato and bean plants. I was sad to think by the time the tomatoes were ready for picking my brother and I would be back home with our parents getting ready to start the new school year.
With schools and businesses currently closed, kids everywhere have the opportunity to spend time at home learning skills from their parents and grandparents. These new skills may one day serve them well like they have for me. I think back to that summer and the joy I felt when my grandparents took time sharing their passions with my brother and me. I never thought I’d put them to use during a pandemic. These days I don’t own a fishing boat. When I do purchase fish from the local fishermen, I must confess, cleaning them myself is simply out of the question!