Amazing Times – CoronaLife Day 180

This week began school for my daughter. Like many other schools, ours is remote for the first marking period. And as I walked up to the school the other day to drop papers into the drop-box, I thought, “What an amazing time we live in.”

Now wait, I hear you thinking. There’s a pandemic going on. Amazing is not the word I would use for our times.

I get it. The whole pandemic thing is awful. It’s stressful. It’s a life we never expected to be living. For many people their lives have been irrevocably changed by loss of work, loss of their own health, loss of a loved one. Our world will never be the same.

But here’s the thing. We are still living in amazing times. I wrote a manuscript set in 1922 Philadelphia. The ghost of the 1918 flu pandemic still hung heavy over people’s lives. So I necessarily did some research into the 1918 pandemic.

When the flu hit Philadelphia hard, they shut everything down. For a while, even coal stopped being delivered to the town–in winter. And the schools, of course, closed. Many parallels to today.

One thing was vastly different, though—technology. When those 1918 kids were home from school, their education stopped. There was no TV, no phone, no internet, even radios were still not ubiquitous. Many kids had parents who were themselves not well educated. Some were lucky enough to have teachers in the family, but most kids had no education at all.

Our kids have remote learning. They have their teachers coming into their homes 4-6 hours a day to educate them. They have assignments, they have access to online tools, they have their teachers available to help them outside of class hours. Is remote learning ideal? No. Are there still wrinkles to iron out? Of course. Even with last spring’s experience, this is still new. But it is vastly superior to what the kids had in 1918—nothing.

So even though I am as tired of this pandemic life as the next person, I am grateful for what we have. I know remote learning is difficult for some families. I know there are some families that are straining to get this done, for whom juggling work and school is a hardship. But we are doing it. We are uniting as a community like never before. Parents, teachers, and students are working together to get our children the education they need

And for those who still worry about the kids falling behind, that what we (parents, teachers, kids) are doing is not enough, remember this: Those kids that were quarantined with no school in 1918 grew up to be part of The Greatest Generation.

We will all be fine.

And we live in amazing times.

A Writer in a World Without Written Language

Last week, I asked fellow writers what they would do if they weren’t writers. Which got me wondering what I would do if I wasn’t a writer—if that wasn’t an option in our world.

All other things being the same, I think my dream job would be as a genealogist. I love digging around in the past so much, that I get as excited when I help other people do their family lines as when I do mine! So I think that would be my job: professional genealogist. I have no idea how you get to be a professional, but I certainly have logged thousands of “in the field” hours doing my own research!

But, since I am a writer, I took my mental musings a bit farther. What if I lived in a world with no written language? Then what? Genealogy research is based on documentation, which of course would not exist with no written language.

I don’t think I could be an oral storyteller, mostly because I dislike being the center of attention. And I would love to be the keeper of a family history, but my brain turned to mush at age 40 and I would have had to pass it on to the next generation already. So what to do in my retirement?

Keep in mind that a society without a written language does not necessarily have to be a backwards, primitive society. I expect that we would have evolved a different method of preserving and passing on information—likely a visual medium. So our stories would be long, elaborate films or series instead of books. Our non-fiction would be preserved in pictures and videos of lectures and speeches and documentaries. Music would have more weight, as songs would likely convey information instead of simply being “pop culture.”

In a world like that, what would I be? I would still be what I am, a storyteller, only I would have to use the visual medium of the day to tell my stories. I would have to learn to interweave the visual and the aural and the symbolism into a work of art on the screen. Which shouldn’t be too hard—many authors are visual thinkers anyway and many use music to set the mood as they write.

So I would be a visual storyteller. Which is kind of ironic, because in a previous life—before full-time writer, before Mommy—I was an award-winning video editor.

Funny how you can never escape what you really are.

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