My son learned about “the Big Wind of 1839” in school last year. And since that history lesson, he hasnt stopped speaking of it. When the weather is blustery, he shares stories of how windy “the Big Wind” really was. He watches houses being built around us and tells of how we learned to dig and build foundations for houses after peoples homes were swept into the sea. His eyes widen as he asks “How scary would THAT be mom? If houses just blew away!”
Early in Ireland’s introduction to the COVID-19 crisis, I made the mistake of listening to talk radio with the kids in the car. As I listened to stories of those falling ill in faraway countries (oblivious to the fact that my six year old was also listening), a man stated that this will be HUGE! It will be something that our children’s children will ask their parents about in years to come. My little boy peeped up from the back seat with “Will it be bigger than the Big Wind?” And with that I turned off the radio. I haven’t heard him speak of the Big Wind since. I have three small kids so let’s face it, there’s plenty of wind in the house but no historic “Big Wind” talk since the radio incident in the car that day. Now he speaks of history. “Will my kids REALLY ask me about the coronavirus mom?? I’ll tell them how we had no school and couldn’t even visit Nanny and Granddad nextdoor.” And he repeats “Is it REALLY going to be history mom?”
We built our house a couple years ago. It’s a new house with all the newly built bits and bobs we put into it. In a very modern building era, I think our house is a little different. I feel it’s just us, a blend of the things we like and have put together and continue to adapt over time. Like all houses I suppose. In our kitchen sits a big old oak table and six oak chairs. It stands out amongst its new surroundings. It’s been the topic of conversation between myself and hubby, and many visitors in our house. I found it online, it was second hand, and the photos painted the picture of a brand new, gorgeous oak table. My husband and brother in law drove the hour and a half to collect it, and it took 4 people to lift it out of the house. The table lived in a beautiful holiday village beside the Atlantic and the house was rented weekly to surfers, families, and anyone looking for a getaway. When it arrived home it was NOTHING like the photos, but it was definitely a big, sturdy oak table that would stand the test of time. And the price was right. We had varying plans to bring it a new lease of life; varnish, chalk paint, glass top. And here we are almost two years later and it still sits in the same state we bought it in. As a matter of fact we did sand the table and apply a clear varnish before using it. The table stubbornly protested. It took ages to dry, remaining a tacky damp surface for almost ten days. Even when we asked the painter how this could be, we were left none the wiser. And the varnish soon disappeared without a trace, and the table looks as raw as the day we bought it. And I’ve grown to love it, we all have. The table has history. And so why am I rambling on about dining tables you ask?
My son with his wide blue eyes asked “Well, what IS history?”
As I explained that every bit of the past IS history, my three kids laughed. We were sitting around the (let’s use the generous term “Rustic”) table, and I explained how this table is history. Imagine all the historic events this table has seen. How many happy holiday makers, or vacationers, sat around it eating a quick breakfast before heading for the beach. That’s history. How many late nights were people crowded around it with glasses resting upon it? Music and song surrounding it. That’s history. There was no doubt highs and lows, happy times and sad times, good news and bad. That’s history for you. And now it sits in our kitchen and history continues, and I’ve promised not to attempt to erase any of it’s history again with my poor DIY skills. So much has happened within the last couple years, and I have many happy memories around our table already. There have been less sad times, and I know there will unfortunately be more of them in years to come. We hope and pray the happy memories and history will outshine the difficult ones.
Today my son and I sat at the table eating our breakfast, talking about what history will tell of the coronavirus. I highlighted how we can choose to shape history by the ways in which we act, and the things that we do (and do not do). He piped up “I know, I know, how we can’t go to school or see our friends, we wash our hands… ” While he sounded annoyed and full of attitude, he also sounded like someone who understands. The decisions we make today will affect tomorrow. And this especially rings true with COVID-19.
We are very fortunate here, I am under no illusion. We have the means to stay at home and away from others. There are homeless, impoverished, and oppressed people here and around the world whom will feel the greatest affects of this crisis. There is little which individuals in many circumstances will be able to do to protect themselves or others from this disease. And yet to those WITH the means, will we be able to get through this crisis with the most positive effects on the population? Will people follow guidelines, social distancing, hygeine, and isolation as directed? Will we consider those worst affected, both close to home and far away, those already ill, those with no medical access? Or will we forget and turn a blind eye? As working life has come to a halt, we have witnessed a huge worldwide decrease in pollution and emissions. Will we learn from this unexpected insight and work harder to reduce our carbon footprint in the future? Only time will tell. That will be history, OUR history.
And time passes; around kitchen tables, inside houses, outdoors, on the streets, in hospitals, on farms, in shops and businesses, in prisons, and in countries all around the world. And our children’s children’s children will ask, hopefully learn from our actions, and inevitably study our mistakes. But to my seven year old, history is no longer “the Big Wind,” it’s “All that stuff that happens and happened around the table.” I’ll take that, both as a metaphor and as truth.
I have to head off now, I have been called to the kitchen table. The kids pushed the very heavy table to the middle of the room, “Look mom, now it’s a classroom!” And there are lots of heated opinions being thrown around it of what’s about to happen: painting, coloring, Monopoly Junior. So that’s some more history for our kitchen table. I’m keeping it happy, positive and fun wherever and whenever I can because I have to… for three smallies who will remember these times forever. I’m learning its painting a happier history for me in turn. Be well my friends.