Memoirs And The Pandemic

Dearest Friends,

This month, I was so excited to write to you about the writing of “Memoirs;” I wanted to encourage you to create your own. 

Me? Well, I have started my memoir many times, never finished it, but do have snippets of this and that in notebooks on a shelf in my library.

However, I do have friends who have completed their memoirs and published them as well.

I’ve read and loved their work, so, in this month’s blog I planned to tell you all about their stories and encourage you to write yours. 

Then, seemingly, out of nowhere, came the 2020 Pandemic with daily news’ briefings the likes we had never heard before. There was a virus, COVID-19, spreading globally. Suddenly, we all found ourselves quarantined; almost everyone except the most needed workers in our society was quarantined. 

We were individually and collectively at risk. So there sat my husband and I on lock down like millions of others trying to do our part in halting the spread of this potentially deadly virus; by not having contact with others, we were told we could contain this outbreak. We were all united in trying to help our country and comply with the best medical advice being given. 

Many of us were given great reinforcement by our adult children who called with reminders of what we should and should not do. I must admit, my friends and I were very touched by these golden reversal of parental roles.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Before I write about this memoir moment for us all, I still want to share my original thoughts on memoirs by people living private lives; lives that led to extraordinary journeys. Since these contemporaries have written their individual histories, I thought, after reading a summarized version of their story,  you might want to write yours.

I have noticed the call to write about one’s life seems to pop up in one’s 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, but surely those now in their 50’s and 60’s living through these extraordinary times can start scribing now. 

As a reader, I always considered it an honor to receive a friend’s memoir. They gifted their many readers with their unique history and wisdom, as well as recording the world’s happenings at that time.

One such individual survived the Holocaust. He had witnessed the death of his entire family at one of the infamous Nazi camps. This gentleman lived to see a new day in the United States, marry, and have an accomplished and wonderful family. He had a lovely career too, utilizing the seven or eight languages he spoke and wrote fluently.

Another friend wrote about how he climbed the corporate ladder and those who made that possible. It was a lovely memoir filled with

stories of family and philanthropy, written for his children and grandchildren.

Another friend, who has published two books, initiated her writing career with her wonderful memoir, which included her induction into the Women’s National Hall of Fame. What a memorable book she wrote!

My memoir, which I’ve started many times for the family archive, has gotten as far as this opening line.

“I started life in a drawer!”

I always knew my parents had a sense of humor, but a drawer? Really? Well, mom, dad, and baby me lived with my maternal grandmother for a while. It was 1940 and apartments were not easily found. So in our temporary home, my grandmother’s house, the crib had not as yet arrived. So I was placed in a well cushioned [I think] drawer.

I once teased my mother, “No wonder I was a colicky baby. You put me in a drawer and then closed it!! So I screamed my bloody head off to get out!!!’

Of course, she did no such thing. It was just a bit of whimsy I enjoyed adding to “The Drawer Story.” The drawer part was absolutely true, the closing of the draw was my silly sense of humor. I actually find the putting baby me in a drawer for lack of a crib quite innovative and hilarious!

My mom would often tell me that I did things in different ways. I guess that’s what happens when you start life in a drawer.

And this is where I would have ended my original blog, perhaps adding a quote or two, but then came The 2020 Pandemic.

The Pandemic and Your Memoir

In our quarantined state, I started writing to my children and grandchildren telling them they were living in a historic moment, and like many historic moments, not of our own choosing. 

My young ones are living a memoir moment. 

We are all living a memoir moment that many I know call Biblical. 

The Biblical part? Well, the world as we know it has been called divided, adversarial, mean spirited, blindly arguing about this and that. 

Then, suddenly comes COVID 19. Mankind is forced to stop in its tracks and try to unite, work for the good of each other, and communicate with care and concern, that sounds both Biblical and a Divine intervention to me.

So when we look back, when my young adult children look back, when my grandchildren look back on this memoir moment,

what will this time look like to them?

How did we all act?

How did we all treat each other?

What silver lining did we find or create during this moment in time?

What permanent behavioral changes were caused because of this pandemic?

Will it be a “British Blitz” moment?

The horrible Blitz in England was an indelible moment in WW II history. The British people stamped human dignity on mankind during this horrifying moment in time. The British set an example of how honorable man can behave in a debilitating crisis.

It causes us to take note of this unique time in contemporary history and really see and truly listen to what is going on around us.

I have seen friends and family reaching out via all the mechanical devices at our fingertips. 

They showed concern. 

They showed love.

They offered help and shared important information. 

They sent funny stories and videos to lighten the seriousness of the moment.

One of my daughters is making a list of the good things she is observing during this time.

Another daughter wrote an article that was published on how to navigate this time positively.

And yet another daughter, goes on undaunted, rearranging a grand party she’s organized for her parents – that would be us!

These times and this virus caused my grandchildren to be sent home from college, high school, and middle school. They are missing graduations and proms, but they are spending precious family time together; these will one day be family moments to commemorate in their own memoirs. 

The memoirs of today’s young just might reflect a unique family togetherness where love dominated the home and precious time was shared; link that with thousands of families doing the same thing, and maybe, just maybe, the joy of family can reach new and loving heights.

During this time, my husband and I find ourselves telecommunicating – a first. FaceTime is becoming more of a norm, Zoom is being investigated, and other well used forms of the tap, tap, tap on the iPhone are being mastered.

I’ve heard from neighbors who offer to get us some things at the food store.

My daughter, who lives nearby, calls with daily reminders “not to go out,” as she shops for us and gives us food ordering tips.

I know many people in our high rise building who have children doing the exact same thing for their parents: calling in, checking up, giving good advice, and shopping for necessities. They want their parents, who are in “that vulnerable age category” to be safe.

There are those I don’t know intimately who are delivering the mail, filling prescriptions, caring for people in health facilities, driving trucks, delivering food, stocking store counters, as well as teachers who are telecommunicating education from their own home to their students’. To all these wondrous people, I give you endless thanks. These brave warriors are living a memoir moment that will be remembered by us all.

Yes, we live in times that could land in one’s memoir, which brings to mind this favorite quote:

“Life can only be understood looking backward, 

  but it must be lived going forward.” 

Our current times are a reminder to try to live our daily life as honorably as we can, everyday, and always: to live with others as kindly, empathically, compassionately, and lovingly as we possibly can.

We too can leave indelible memories on those we know and love, at the very least, that can be our aim.

We are all living our personal memoir which will be our gift to those loved ones who come after us.

Stay healthy and be safe,.

Yours with love,

Helene Shalotsky