Part of what made my mother the person she became was a direct result from growing up during the Second World War. Scrap drives, buying War Bonds, all those things that made it possible for her generation to survive and come out the other side to be the inheritors of the world left to them by the Greatest Generation. They were called the Silent Generation, which is kind of amusing, considering how not silent my mother tends to be. Not obnoxious, but she certainly has a voice. And wisdom. She is the one who assured me that after the election of Donald Trump that "things will get worse."
I probably should have heeded her insistence, having lived through a Great Depression and a World War.
Here we are, in the middle of a global pandemic that has set off an economic downturn that could not have been imagined just a few months ago. I have the odd experience of not quite belonging to any particular generation. Just as my birthday drops me on the line that divides Geminis from Cancers, I am barely a Boomer and hardly an X, I grew up listening to stories about the olden days, frightened by Vietnam and angered by everything that Nixon did. I wondered what it would be like to have a president as universally beloved as Franklin Roosevelt and a country as united as one against a common enemy.
For eight years, I felt like we really had something like that, but I know that for many Barack Obama was a divisive presence. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan never came together like they might have. Somehow we managed to take all that martyrdom and turn it into jingoistic bullying. Barack Obama sent drones into hundreds of targets in the Middle East, and it would be comforting to say that they only killed bad guys. That wouldn't be true.
Now, as I prepare to hand the keys over to my son, who will be telling his kids about shelter in place and toilet paper rationing, I can't help but feel that we missed our chance. This is not our finest hour. This is the extended winter of our discontent. My mother, as is so often the case, was correct. Things got worse in a quantum way that we can only hope to comprehend when we come out the other side. Will we still shake hands and give hugs? Will we ever sit down in a restaurant again? Is six feet something we'll take with us? Is the next war one we can hope to win?
I expect I'll probably keep a mask or two to show the grandchildren, the ones who will hopefully be born with herd immunity. I'll tell them stories about how I used to teach kids in a classroom before all learning went online. And about movie theaters.
And how about how their great grandma was right.