Years ago, I had a blog called "Confessions of a Cheese Grits Fiend." It was intended to be a chronicle of the lives of me and my friends' lives at the time. Some of us were barely post-college, some of us were mid-marriage, some of us stayed in and around Nashville while others moved on to different cities and shiny new careers.
In the middle of that, we needed the Milne ideal of being sure of each other no matter how things changed. Certain high points were recorded on that blog, sometimes with Rashamonesque he-said-she-said-no-you-said twists.
The blog is still out there. So are many of the people who populated the stories. I haven't visited it in a long time. Some writers love to go back to their older efforts. To me, it's an exercise in cringing at the word salads that made us laugh. We moved forward and the picayune narrative of our pilgrimage to maturity stopped being told as stories on a blog and were shared as updates and posts on social media.
2016 proved to be a watershed year. We found ourselves assessing how accurately our declared political parties matched our ideals. Election night brought a mix of responses from horror to outright glee. It caused further divisions that some of us mourned and others shrugged off as a natural part of life moving forward.
Then the pandemic happened. A Chinese-American dramaturg who returned from an exchange trip a few days shy of Christmas warned one of us about a really bad flu that was flattening swaths of the population there. A friend of mine who'd worked with Doctors Without Borders told me to be prepared to hunker down for a long time.
"Do you think it will be that bad?" Dave (Kevin's ex. You'll get the hang of this.) asked me on February 16th. It was two days after my DWB buddy told me about the flu and how woefully unprepared we were.
I thought back to the fortnight leading up to Hurricane Katrina. As one of the people recruited to help with travel coordination and on-the-spot assistance to try to curtail culture shock, I hoped it was overkill to prepare to move that many people in and out of Mississippi and Louisiana. What if the worst that happened was a lot of rain and noise? It would have been nice if I'd been right.
Was this pants-wetting paranoia? My friend was not given to hyperbolic expression. So, my mother and I got as ready as we possibly could. There were final visits to our favorite bookshops (Priorities, people!) Tractor Supply, the hippie organic store and the regular grocer, and then we settled in to ride out the plague. This happened to most of my friends across Nashville, in Louisville, in rural Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama.
In a manner similar to the way images of filaments contract and expand in the viewfinder of a kaleidoscope, our lives began to converge in cycles again. We needed to be sure of each other. We shared stories of friends and relatives who were caught in the crosshairs of COVID-19. We sat in silence at online memorial services. We held our collective breath as the scythe swung perilously close.
As I write this today, 27 August, 2020, most of us are still here. We are maintaining by dint of equal parts humor and sheer cussedness. As I add stories, they'll be linked below. Stay safe, be as joyful as you can, and continue to love like you can't be hurt.