Saturday, May 23 – Sunday May 24, 2020
Why do we keep hearing the word “normalcy”? Is it because things will never be normal? Now I know about the word “normalcy.” I know it was Warren G. Harding’s campaign slogan, that he didn’t so make up the word as revive it, and that it sounded unusual even in 1921.
So why am I hearing that word more now than I have since the seventh-grade? A “return to normalcy” sounded reassuring after World War I, a return to home and hearth, a rejection of international complications like the League of Nations. But it was always less a return to the past than a rejection of the present. Not really normal. Normalcy.
Was February normal? We had different lives: school, work, appointments, errands, people, holidays, sports. We shared common experiences when we bought groceries, ate in a restaurant, or went to the beach. How will we remember this pandemic period, with its lockdowns, distancing, warning signs, gloves, and masks? With its relentless news coverage of vaccines, hospitalizations, closures, and loss?
In my mind events already fall before or after March 2020. Normal was when my calendar was filled with appointments, choral rehearsals, travel plans, birthdays, and family visits. But that’s my memory, a retired grandmother’s memory. I expect our collective memories will be generational. Children will see this time in a different way than their parents and their grandparents. Ten year olds will remember this differently from college students.
My dad was twelve when the Great Depression started. He remembered it as a time of closeness with family and friends and his first job with Western Union delivering telegrams on a bicycle. Will a generation remember 2020 as the “good old days”?
It’s too soon to tell. We don’t yet know if history will see this Memorial Day weekend of 2020 as the beginning, the middle, or the end of an era. Even as we talk about “reopening,” we know we are not returning to the past. There are more rules, more caution, more uncertainty. And always the question: how much of this will last? What would we like to see last?
Some articles suggest that pandemic paradigms will remain. We will live in a world where faces are covered, where handshakes are rejected, where hugs are avoided. An epidemiologist’s dream, I think, perhaps unfairly. But to reject smiles and embracing is to lose something fundamentally human. I have to have hope.
This weekend the Catholic church reported their plan for opening up in careful stages and I’m excited to see that phase three includes choirs. Because choirs mean people in groups singing in harmony and it’s the first time I’ve see any mention of choirs or choral singing for the entire lockdown. I’m glad somebody is thinking about it. I can’t wait to start singing with the Festival Singers again.
If that’s normalcy, I’m all for it.
Today’s Notable Headlines
“Governor Cuomo Says Professional Sports Teams Can Resume Training in New York: ‘It’s a Return to Normalcy,’ ” Newsweek, May 24, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/governor-cuomo-says-professional-sports-teams-can-resume-training-new-york-its-return-1506265
“3 Tips for Coping With the ‘New Normal’ After COVID-19,” Yahoo News, The Mighty, May 24, 2020. https://news.yahoo.com/3-tips-coping-normal-covid-094559574.html
“Catholic Church in Orange County plans to reopen in ‘small steps’ beginning June 14,” Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2020. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-23/catholic-church-in-orange-county-plans-to-reopen-in-small-steps-beginning-june-14
“Face masks may be ‘new normal’ in post-virus life as U.S. prepares gradual reopening,” Reuters, April 15, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa/face-masks-may-be-new-normal-in-post-virus-life-as-u-s-prepares-gradual-reopening-idUSKCN21X25I
“Fauci: ‘In a perfect world’ Americans would stop shaking hands,” ABC News, April 9,2020. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/fauci-perfect-world-americans-stop-shaking-hands/story?id=70062797
Why am I doing this?
The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the events of these days from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.
You are on History’s Edge.