Book? Wedding? Everything pales to insignificance in the face of the ongoing tragedy unfolding in Japan. This morning’s paper had a photo of a car, almost undamaged, sitting atop a three-story building. How it got there is unimaginable. Then in yesterday’s “News Hour” the dismal footage of everything covered in snow, and silence except for the occasional sounds of crows. So many freezing and in shock.
And then the nuclear reactors relentlessly collapsing, releasing radiation into the atmosphere at levels governments can’t seem to agree on. Carol Venolia found an interesting site: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/16/science/plume-graphic.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=thab1 Here’s a moving picture “graph” showing how the radioactive plume should spread across the Pacific and hit the West Coast. Of course it is emphasized that the levels detected here would be minuscule and harmless, yet it can’t help but spawn that twitch of fear in one’s gut.
All this potential for panic reminds me of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Khrushchev banging his shoe on the U.N.’s podium: “We will bury you!” How clearly I remember standing in the heat and silence of our garage, staring at that awful photo of him on the cover of the discarded Time magazine, an orange atomic blast superimposed behind him. I was scared, and all those drop and cover exercises at school didn’t help matters.
But trust my mother. She believed this Cuban showdown would come to nothing and had no patience for all this panic. I went grocery shopping with her at the Market Basket and can still picture shelves empty of canned goods. For Mom, this was an inconvenience, not proof that her belief was misplaced. I wish now that I had thought to ask her later in life if she was really this calm or if she was putting up a front to keep her children from freaking out.
Honestly, I think it was the former. She was born in Nebraska and was Ms. “Wagons-Rolling-Toward-The-West.” Piano too heavy for the oxen? Jettison that sucker and keep on going. She was a keep-on-going sort of gal in the face of impending doom from a long line of strong women.
She was also a high school English teacher in Pasadena. She would carpool everyday with another teacher, Ollie Roysher. The Royshers were a different sort of breed who to us seemed a little odd. Where my mom was the stoic in the face of disaster, the Royshers’ can-do response was to dig themselves a bomb shelter. I believe Mr. Roysher was a science professor of some sort, and you can believe that shelter was snug and complete.
They had one child, Allison, who was around my age. She was stick-thin, had wispy dark hair, wore glasses and had a tiny voice with a slight lisp. I didn’t know her well but suspected she was smart. Once they were making soup (why I was there, I have no idea) and Ollie asked her daughter to give it a taste and tell her what she thought. Allison: “Perhapth a touch of Worthtershire thauthe?”
Worcestershire sauce. Worcestershire sauce? I hadn’t made more than Campbell’s Cream of Tomato soup by that point, and here was this girl calling for a touch of Worcestershire sauce. For heaven’s sake, I didn’t even know what it was! That’s when I knew their family was different from ours.
And I’ve come to wonder: were they just weird, or were they actually far ahead of their time? I use Worcestershire sauce occasionally now, and, evidenced by our earthquake supplies, I believe in being prepared. Maybe it’s time to get out the shovel.