memories, musings, nostalgia

A few notable memories of past December 27ths…

The featured photo today is one of me when I was about three years old. It was not taken on December 27th, 1975, but it does appear in my Facebook memories today.

I happened to be awake last night at midnight. That’s something that doesn’t happen so often anymore. I’ve always been more of a nightowl than Bill is. His brain has a tendency to go down with the sun. By nine o’clock, talking to him is like trying to listen to a Walkman with dying batteries. His eyes roll back in his head and I have to tell him to go to bed. I usually go with him, and he wakes me up very early in the morning. He can’t help it. So now, after eighteen years of marriage, we tend to go to bed somewhat early and rise early… and I sometimes have to nap, because I’ll stay up and read.

As Bill slept next to me, I looked at my Facebook memories, freshly available at the stroke of midnight. December 27th has historically been a memorable day. There were quite a few great memories from over the years. And there was also a not so great one from last year. As we were coming back from seeing my friend in France, we stopped at a rest area near Beaune so we could pee and call the people who owned the gite where we were going to stay. As we were about to leave, some jerk slashed our tire. We were driving our brand new car that, at that point, we had only owned since July 1, 2019. I wrote about that incident last year.

Flat tire caused by criminal jerks in France last year. This cost us a lot of money, but at least we got an extra day in France.

At the time of the tire slashing, it wasn’t such a good day… but now I look back on it and realize that some good came out of the slashing. For one thing, we got a taste of French good will. The gite owners let us stay an extra night free of charge, and the guy at the tire shop went out of his way to help us find the right tires. I discovered a love of Pommard wine, and since we didn’t know what was on the horizon in 2020, we got an extra day in a country we’ve come to love. I would love to be stuck in France today… minus the threat of the coronavirus, that is.

The next notable memory was from December 27, 2018. I posted “I am in serious need of fun.” To that, I now say, “I really had no idea.” In 2018, things were still open. Ah well, maybe next year, things will be less fucked up than they are in 2020. Maybe… one can hope and pray. I do have a sense of realism, though. On the other hand, maybe 2020 has taught me to appreciate the small things more. Going out to eat at a restaurant next year would be a great pleasure. Maybe it will happen.

The next notable memory was from December 27, 2014. We lived in Jettingen, having moved there in September of that year. We moved back to Germany in August 2014, but spent the first month in alternative lodging– a hotel for a week, then a temporary apartment that was a little too cozy for us. I was happy to have a home of my own, even if I didn’t love the house we rented and later came to despise the landlady.

Anyway, on December 27, 2014, we had a lot of snow. Zane and Arran were still youthful, and both having been born in the South– Zane in Georgia and Arran in North Carolina– they were not too familiar with the white stuff. Zane had encountered snow once, around the time we first got him. The storm in Georgia had happened in January 2010, I think… Zane was barely out of puppyhood and loved the snow! So I wasn’t surprised by this joyful reaction in 2014…

Zane and Arran in the snow. Zane was a fan, and Arran was not so much.

When we lived near Stuttgart, it wasn’t unusual to get decent snow at least once a year. Actually, where we lived, we got more than a lot of people did, even in the Stuttgart area. Jettingen was a higher altitude than some of the surrounding areas, so the snow tended to stick around awhile. We’d still have sleddable hills long after people in other areas had a sloppy, muddy mess.

Here in Breckenheim, we’re kind of in a valley. It doesn’t snow as much here anyway, so it’s been awhile since we last had a good snowstorm. I miss it. Arran doesn’t. Noyzi seems to like snow, though. A couple of weeks ago, we had some snow that melted after a day or so. He had great fun running around in it. Noyzi has been more playful lately, anyway. He seems to be settling in nicely.

And finally, the last notable memory I was enjoying last night occurred on December 27, 2010. A high school classmate of mine shared this photo of our third grade class…

I’m in the front row, wearing the 70s era hand me down dress and clogs.

My German friend immediately picked me out of the crowd, and I started to explain the context of that photo. We had only recently moved to Gloucester County when this was taken. I was eight years old, and my parents had moved us from Fairfax County (a suburb of Washington, DC) to Gloucester. I was actually born not too far from Gloucester, in Hampton, Virginia. A lot of my classmates were born in Hampton, or nearby Newport News or Williamsburg, but they had spent their whole lives in Gloucester. I, on the other hand, was an Air Force brat, and we moved to Dayton, Ohio not long after my birth.

Anyway, two years after my dad retired from the Air Force out of Mildenhall Air Force Base in England, my parents moved to Fairfax, Virginia. Fairfax was a very suburban place in the late 70s. We lived in a neighborhood where there were sidewalks and playgrounds. I had lots of kids to play with and could walk to and from school every day. My school in Fairfax was also diverse, and I had classmates from all over the world. I remember learning about Japan and Thailand in first and second grades. We even had culture days at school where we’d taste foods from different countries (I wasn’t a fan because I was a very picky eater). I remember learning about Vincent Van Gogh and other artists, too. Fairfax had a lot more money than Gloucester did, so the school experience was very different.

Gloucester, by contrast, was like a different world. In 1980, it was still extremely rural. My parents bought a house with a business attached. On one side of the house there was a dirt road, where there were no playgrounds or sidewalks, and the kids would act like they were on the set of The Dukes of Hazzard. Yes, there were plenty of Confederate battle flags everywhere, and instead of playing childhood games, the kids would ride bikes and motorcycles, shoot BB guns, and play in the graveyard (seriously, we did this). It was decidedly “redneck”, and not what I was used to at all.

On the other side of my parents’ house ran Business Route 17, a busy road that led to Gloucester Courthouse. It provided my parents with a supply of customers, but it wasn’t the best place to live. In Fairfax, there was a shopping mall on the other side of the woods behind our house. I could walk to the mall with ease. We were also really close to a meeting house for the Mormons. Little did I know that I would someday marry a Mormon. Now he’s an ex Mormon! In those days, I remember thinking that church was mysterious. In Gloucester, I had to walk about two miles down Route 17 to get to the crappy shopping center. In those days, I could do it– even as a young kid– and no one cared.

My first year in Gloucester was very difficult. I experienced a lot of bullying that year. In Fairfax, I had my cousins nearby, and while we weren’t close friends or anything, they were family. I had friends in the neighborhood. I didn’t have to ride the bus. In Gloucester, I knew no one, and people thought I was weird. I’m still weird, but people appreciate it more now than they did then.

So looking at that photo is a little painful for me. That teacher, Mrs. Thompson, didn’t like me much. That was supposedly the “gifted” class. Half the class wasn’t gifted, though… We were divided into two reading groups. I was in the more advanced group, having been moved there a week or two after I started at Botetourt Elementary School. I had originally been in Miss Booker’s class, but I could read better than the other kids in that class. So I was put in Mrs. Thompson’s class, where all the “cool kids” were. These were mostly kids who were born and raised in Gloucester. Their parents were community pillars. Some of them rode the school bus with me and made every day a living hell. I often came home crying.

In third grade, we were in these big open classrooms that could be separated by an electric divider. Our divider was always open, and the teacher in the other room, Mrs. Holstrom, was a lot louder than Mrs. Thompson was. My attention would often drift to her class. Mrs. Thompson would then call on me, and I would be lost. So the kids would make fun of me, and I would get upset and cry. They took perverse delight in tormenting me for having a short span of attention and being easily upset. And my parents did nothing about it. I remember one of my older sisters used to coach me in comebacks. I’m now pretty good at verbally putting people in their places, but back then, I didn’t have a clue.

I seem to also remember feeling like I needed better clothes. The dress I’m wearing in the photo above came from my former Fairfax County neighbor, Sarah. She’s two years older than I am and Canadian. We ended up friending each other on Facebook! She now lives in British Columbia, but for two years, she was my friend. I inherited a bunch of her clothes, including that dress. I remember liking that dress because it “spun” so well and was comfortable. But all of the kids in Gloucester were wearing oxford shirts, Levis, and Nikes, Docksiders, or saddle shoes, and monogrammed sweaters. They all had combs in their back pockets, too. I never got into the comb habit, nor did I ever own a pair of saddle shoes. I do remember having “Topsiders”, which was a rip off of the vastly superior “Docksiders” shoes people wore back then. It’s now funny to me that I was so into brands when I was 8.

I see that photo was also taken in what we used to call “The Pit”. It was a room where we’d watch films, take music class, and have class pictures taken. That was also the room where we had the horrible “Growing Up and Liking It” discussion. Yep– I learned what menstruation is in that room! The Pit no longer exists. It was “filled in” some years later because the school officials needed another room for normal classroom use. Years after I was a student at Botetourt, I taught an after school enrichment horse class for my 4H club. I was 17 at the time, but still had such vivid memories of going to Botetourt.

I also have curls in that photo. Why? Because my sisters used to curl their hair and I wanted to be like them. I slept in pink curlers the night before that photo was taken. I thought it was a good look. I wore clogs for the same reason. My sister, Sarah, had them and I wanted to be like her. She was in high school then, and used to come of Botetourt to teach the “cool kids” French. That was fourth grade, though, and by then I was out of the so-called “gifted” group. Mrs. Thompson had me put down a level. I ended up being the best reader and speller in my fourth grade class. That was when I had Mr. Almasian, who was very popular and young. He was also of Armenian descent, and he used to talk about it in class. Little did I know that I would eventually go on to live in Armenia. But I could devote an entire blog post to his class, so I won’t continue with that tangent, except to say that being in his class helped put an end to the bullying, at least. But Mr. Almasian had a whale shaped paddle that he used on us. He’d paddle us in front of the class. Yes, it happened to me, and yes I’m still pissed off about it. Again… a story I’ve already written, and one to rewrite and embellish on another day.

Anyway… it’s already after 1:00pm, and so far the most exciting thing that has happened is that I finally vacuumed. So next year, if I write another post like this one, I’ll have to pick another day to do it. At least I’m still married to this guy…

And we no longer live in that house…
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condescending twatbags, healthcare, mental health, poor judgment, social media

How about a little compassion?

This morning, we woke up to the first significant snow we’ve seen since 2017. I think we got one dusting last year, and the year before that. The other years we’ve been in Germany, there’s always been at least one or two good snows. I remember back in 2015, we got snow and it hung around for over a month. But the last couple of years, it’s been unusually warm. I remember when we lived in Germany the first time, I wouldn’t dream of going outside without a jacket. Now, I can get by the whole winter without donning my down coat. Or, at least I’ve been able to over the past few years.

Noyzi loves the snow. We let him out for his morning whizz and he was galloping all over the yard. Arran is less enthused about snow, but even he seemed to enjoy the pretty white blanket. I don’t know how long it will hang around. It was cold yesterday, but it feels a bit warmer today, despite all the white stuff. Bill was going to go into work, but he’s going to telework this morning because of the white dumpage. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of it melts by tonight, though.

Now… about today’s title. I read a sad story about an elderly couple from Jackson, Michigan who both caught COVID-19, got very sick, and died at the very same minute on November 24, just two days before Thanksgiving. Patricia and Leslie McWaters were reportedly inseparable. Married for 47 years and aged 78 and 75 respectively, they did everything together, even when it was time to exit this life.

Like the rest of us, this couple got tired of being locked down. They decided to go out to eat in a restaurant where people weren’t wearing masks and were freely walking among the tables. Boom… they got sick with COVID-19. Now, they’re dead.

It was a bittersweet story to read. Patricia McWaters had been an operating room nurse. Her husband, Leslie, had been a truck driver. They raised children together, and Patricia was known as “the boss”. Leslie was famous for his one-liners. They were much beloved by their family and friends.

I read the readers’ reactions. Quite predictably, instead of compassion and kindness, there was self-righteous comment after comment about how “stupid” and “selfish” this couple was for daring to dine out during a pandemic. I was starting to lose hope for humanity when I ran across this wise comment from a physician:

I’ll bet this doctor is a good one.

Everybody dies. Every single living being will someday pass away, and it’s quite possible that they will die because of something they did or didn’t do. There’s actually no telling how this couple got COVID-19. It’s highly possible they got it while dining at the restaurant, but it’s also possible that they didn’t. I’ve read so many stories about people getting sick and dying of this virus. I’ve read tales about people who egregiously flouted the rules and got it, as well as a few from people who did everything “right” and still got sick anyway. This virus is very insidious. I think anyone who gets it deserves empathy above everything else.

Another doctor had this to say…

A doctor who “truly wishes ill” on people? Wow. How shameful.

I feel sorry for the surviving McWaters family members because it sounds like they’re dealing with a terrible loss. Would the people commenting on this article have more compassion if this couple had died in an accident? What if they both got cancer or heart disease brought on by “bad habits”? How about if they got sick while working, rather than dining out? Would that make their causes of death more respectable? The bottom line is, they got very sick, suffered a lot, and died. Isn’t that punishment enough for them and their bereaved family members? Do we also have to heap nasty comments and callousness on top of that? Why is it necessary to be judgmental? Especially since the people the comments are directed toward are no longer with us, but their grieving family members are?

COVID fatigue is a real thing. I feel fortunate because I don’t mind staying home. I am a bit tired of seeing the same scenes every day, but I don’t mingle with people as a rule. So the social distancing thing isn’t a huge deal for me, personally. I would like to travel again and I miss eating in restaurants, but not so much that I’d take the risk of catching COVID-19 or dealing with the pain in the ass of taking precautions by wearing a mask. I’d rather simply stay home, which is what I continue to do and have the luxury of being able to do. I don’t feel like I’m suffering that much, but I also don’t feel morally superior to those who are still out in the world, doing their thing. If I weren’t living in Germany, where I am away from family and friends and don’t have to go to work, I’d probably be out among the masses, too.

But other people are having a real problem with this new lifestyle that has been forced on us this year. Some people are suffering from mental health issues. Others are just plain fed up. Plenty of others simply can’t stay home because they have to earn a living. I don’t wish illness or death on them for being human or needing to work. I also don’t wish them ill for wanting to enjoy life and having fun.

Remember, folks. There but by the grace of God (or just plain luck) go you and yours. This couple was very unlucky. When it comes down to it, they were just trying to enjoy their lives. And when you get to be in your 70s or 80s, you don’t have that much time to lose. Unfortunately, that group is the one most at risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 and perishing. But they would have eventually died anyway. Everyone does. At least they were able to go out together.

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