I already have face mask memories. Soon you will too. It seems my mother was ahead of her time. She wore a mask so often we called her “the woman with no face.” Of course, during ragweed season she also plugged her nose with silk panties so maybe she was just weird. Even though I was small during the silk-panty-nose-stuffing era, I remember it vividly. I wonder what children will remember from this time?
My grandson DJ is the same age I was when those visuals were burned into my brain. Yesterday, he and I made up songs about coronavirus because, well why not? I was explaining why he couldn’t take swimming lessons right now. It was about the 15th virus-related thing I’d had to explain yesterday. He’s sick of hearing about washing his hands, using a tissue, not touching his eyes, not running out to greet our neighbors, and why we need to take his temperature even though we’re pretty sure he just has allergies. At least putting the reason to a beat made it a bit less tiresome.
Soon, face masks will become part of his experience too as will bandanas over the face. I associate that look with farmers, but it probably makes most people my age think of bandits or bank robbers. This can cause some confusion when a car backfires, the police sensors pick it up, and a bandana masked policeman shows up at your door. Is this a bandit posing as a policeman or a policeman who wants to rob you?
Now I know that sounds like a far-fetched, made-up scenario. But that’s because you don’t own a 1978 International Scout and live in a neighborhood where gunfire is common. We had just such an event on my street last night. (That bandana part could be made up. I didn’t see the cops faces. But it makes for a better story, don’t you think?)
And the weirdness of that visual accurately reflects how things feel right now. Nothing that was true two weeks ago is true today. Thinking has to shift swiftly. In a pandemic, you only get one chance to prevent. You cannot go backward.
Financial thinking will have to shift quickly as well. Did I make a mistake putting that 2019 IRA contribution in my account last week? Should I have kept it as a reserve instead? I don’t know. None of us know. We are facing territory we aren’t familiar with.
Can some of the unemployed in Georgia shift their thinking quickly enough to harvest the currently ripening blueberries and squash that farmers lack migrant labor to harvest? If so, we can prevent holes in our food chain, save some farms, and get income in their hands. But it will require a shift from predominant thinking. And uncertainty often leads to one of the four F responses: Fight, Flee, Fawn, or Freeze.
This is another opportunity for face masks to help. Just think how many superheroes wear face masks: Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the Flash all wear masks. And so do our real-life superheroes: healthcare workers. If we follow the new CDC guideline, we can all be superheroes!
Superheroes are powerful. Viewing ourselves as powerful can help bolster us as we navigate our way through uncertainty. Perhaps the face mask will become a symbol of courage and community-mindedness.
Hopefully, that’s what our children will remember from this time, our courage and willingness to adapt quickly for the benefit of our entire world community. At least that’s my wish for new face mask memories!