• Donna Brown

COVID, a wedding, making changes and more



In life as we hope to balance the good and not so good days in our lives, we often are worn down by the ordinary so much that by old age our senses are dulled. After 70 years on this earth, flowers don’t always smell as sweet, and birds don’t usually sing as melodiously as they did half a century ago, but then an event takes place that is even better than you could have imagined.


In March my family and I all came down with COVID-19. Our grandkids barely had a sniffle, my husband and daughter-in-law fought it off in a few days. My sons, both in their 30s, became very ill for two weeks and my symptoms lingered on. None of us were hospitalized, thank goodness. It was worse than I thought but better than it could have been.


Then on May 8 our charming younger son, Zachary, married beautiful and sweet Alyssa Rivera. Even though there was a threat of rain during the outdoor ceremony and the tent required for the dance floor during COVID-19 wasn’t what they had hoped for, the evening was perfection. Surrounded by loving family and friends, I realized that life doesn’t get any better than that.


• • • • •


Where did the rolls of pastel toilet paper go? In the 1960s every roll in exquisite households matched the bathroom tiles. I grew up with white because my parents had seven children and were frugal, but my Aunt Ruth Wescoat was the epitome of style. Her house on Pratt Street was a bilevel with a paneled rec room and carport. The kitchen had a pink refrigerator, pink wall oven, pink sink and pink stove top. It was delightful! Her bathrooms were all pastels and on the back of each toilet was a crocheted doll hiding an extra roll of matching toilet paper.


It seems that small things subtlety change over our lifetime and we barely take note of the time and place. When did we stop licking stamps and envelopes? Putting curlers in our hair? Stop memorizing phone numbers? Stop sending postcards? Stop using dictionaries? Wonder what will be next to be dumped in the dustbin?


• • • • •


When I was a child, I had a favorite wild cherry tree which stood beside my father’s garden. The tree was ancient, and the boughs gently sloped to the thick green moss below. There were three particular branches halfway up that were stacked like a staircase. I would climb among the lush leaves, sit on the middle branch, lean back against the top and stretch my legs out on the lower. Hidden from my annoying siblings and far from my mother’s call, I would munch on an apple as I lost myself in Treasure Island, Huckleberry Finn or Anne of Green Gables.


Books were my refuge from a turbulent childhood. As punishment my mother would take my library books and hide them until I repented for my misbehavior, which often took weeks. Fortunately, the hall in our house was lined with bookshelves and there I found my Aunt Martha’s Bobbsey Twins books and my father’s childhood collection of historical biographies. I devoured them all and often read through the night until the sun cast its first rays through my attic window.


Last month I decided to revisit some of the books I cherished from my youth and came to several startling revelations. There is much more depth than I remembered, and I now view the stories through the eyes of the adult not the child’s. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery was written in 1908 and is about an 11-year-old orphan, full of enthusiasm and curiosity, who is adopted by a very stern middle-aged spinster and her extremely shy brother.

Anne has used her imagination during her very short lifetime as a survival mechanism. She imagines how ice cream might taste or what wearing a beautiful dress might feel like. She often surveys new surroundings, which are usually bland or sparse and says, “There is no scope for imagination here.”


When Anne arrives at Green Gables, she longs to have a friend who is a kindred spirit. Isn’t that what all our inner beings seek? Someone who not only has the same interests and desires, but someone who grasps and revels in who we really are. Perhaps that is what makes a meaningful friendship or a lasting marriage.


Anne is full of naive wisdom and tells her school mates, who lament about not having imaginations, that an imagination must be cultivated. At one point Anne is older and bemoans, “That’s the worst of growing up and I am beginning to realize it. The things you wanted as a child don’t seem half so wonderful when you get them.” Isn’t that the truth?



Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to wescoat@comcast.net.