History Repeats Itself

By Molly Muskin

I have grown very accustomed to my comfiest set of clothes. The bottoms are warm and roomy, and my socks have small pompoms by the ankles which I love. They were a gift from one of my grandchildren. I can’t remember which but that doesn’t matter as I love them all the same.
Shut in because of COVID19, no one coming to visit – you can zoom and you can spend a great deal of time on the phone, wearing whatever you want or even as little as you want.

Nowadays, most people only dress the top parts of their bodies. You only need to be halfway presentable if you spend your time on zooms. Floating torsos, talking heads, fake backgrounds – all of these make up the daily visuals for many working people. What lies beneath those desks and tables is more than likely a pair of PJ’s or yoga pants.

I am now lucky enough to have a closet filled with clothes, some more stylish than others. As I currently have nowhere extravagant to go, and receive few visitors, I choose to wear the same selection of 5 or 6 items day in and day out.

As I look back on the turbulent years of my youth, growing up in a lovely seaside village on the shores of Northern England, I find the correlations to modern day issues to be quite remarkable.

What is now a lazy indulgence was then all we had.

As a child, I also wore the same clothes each day but that was out of necessity. We were not a poor family, but new clothing was an impossible luxury that was simply not available during the War. When the Messerschmitts flew over our village each night, we would don our Siren Suits over our simple clothing. You would step into the suit, one leg at a time, just like our beloved Prime Minister Winston Churchill. There was a sense of safety and security that overcame us as we zipped up our suits and headed down into the bomb shelter in the cellar beneath our house.
One thing I always hated was my gas mask. The smell of stale rubber will haunt me forever. My mask never fit me quite right. There was always a fear that if the need should arise when I had to put on my trusted mask, it would not seal correctly or protect me from possible invisible substances that could do me harm.

I find it disheartening and deeply saddening that I now must wear a mask once again when I venture outside. I may be kept safe from the invisible virus that threatens our planet today by wearing an ill-fitting mask, but at least this one doesn’t stink of musty cellars.
My mother refused to wear a gas mask or even venture down into our cellar when the air raid sirens would howl at night. We were always fearful of what may happen to her. Today, my children are now fearful for me if I choose not to wear my mask or to stay inside. But I have taken this modern-day threat as seriously as I did when my country was threatened by a foreign power and thankfully have managed to stay safe, if not completely sound.

One of the most important elements in any crisis situation is the constant and reliable flow of nourishing and hopefully delicious food. I am ever so grateful to receive a daily visit from a lovely young man who delivers surprisingly tasty food from Meals on Wheels. The variety is impressive – fresh fish properly prepared, meat that is cooked in savory sauces and healthy vegetables accompany each portioned delivery. A dietician develops each meal specifically to include the necessary vitamins and to manage the caloric intake to combat possible obesity. I receive so many deliveries that I can share my meals with others on the floor in my building.

As a child, there was little chance of receiving such a thoughtful and well-organized delivery. We subsisted mostly on the eggs from our marvelous flock of chickens. Fresh fruit and vegetables were obtainable, but in scarce supply. However, my grandfather was a fisherman in the village of Grimsby and he made sure we never went hungry. There were many mouths to feed in our cellar. I was one of 6 children and each one was hungrier than the next. My grandfather would arrange for a well packed cardboard box filled with ice and the tastiest fresh fish in the world to be delivered whenever it was possible. We cherished the days when the box would arrive.

That night, we knew Mummy would be able to prepare a wonderful meal.