Wishing and hoping and waiting for the vaccine

I think I must have been four or five, standing in the sun with my father and older brother, in the Sportscenter parking lot with every other child in town close to my age. I may have been older, I don’t know, there is no one left to ask. But I remember rows and rows of long tables, the short ends touching to snake back and forth across the vast sea of concrete, army men everywhere.

We would see these men again soon, as we practiced our “duck and cover” and mock civil defense drills, but that afternoon lacked any particular drama, although there was a sense of occasion, expectation, some big something emanating from the adults around us.
We formed snaky lines, too, and stayed more or less in order, while the army men, who were probably the National Guard, barked orders, or probably they didn’t bark, with their uniform sleeves rolled up past their elbows, green camouflage caps on each head. Perhaps one or two whirly-gigged their arms to keep the conga line of children and parents moving, moving.

On the tables sat hundreds of tiny white paper cups, much like the ones Sunday school teachers used at parties to nestle jelly beans to look like Easter eggs. In the center of each little pleated cup was a sugar cube.

And somewhere within that cube of sugar was the magic elixir —the Sabin vaccine—meant to protect us from polio, that dread and awful disease, the one that worried our mothers into near states of panic every summer, the awful disease that robbed children of healthy limbs, and sometimes their breath and sometimes their lives.

There are those of us who remember the click and shuffle of a child walking in leg braces, the heroic stiff-legged and encumbered runs around the bases on the playground, the way we all knew, and didn’t know, what those leather and metal contraptions were about.

But we all knew our mothers’ fear, so palpable, unrelenting, even when they tried to keep it from us. I can’t imagine it, thinking of it now, how long those summer nights must have been for our young mothers, their babies asleep down the hall, no breeze to be had through the open windows, and they more vigilant than usual, but not sure what they were listening or watching for.

We didn’t go to Sunday school and church, we didn’t play with other children, and we certainly didn’t go swimming. I remember none of this, but my mother spoke of it often. Sometimes, I got a glimpse of “Life” or ‘Look” and saw the full-page images of iron lungs in hospital wards, life-saving but horrifying to imagine, what little I comprehended of them.

It was the early 60s, and we believed in science and the community protection of the National Guard, so we lined up in a parking lot and took our medicine.

Vaccines for COVID-19 are out now, and I wish for long tables in the Sportscenter parking lot. You should see — and hear — the riotous dinging of my WhatsApp, as friends track down and follow up every possible lead and rumor about who has shots, what is the protocol, and how do you get an appointment for one — in a geographic area spanning five states.

It is important to note, that “five state” statement is not an exaggeration.

I have signed up for the vaccination, many weeks out, at a time I think, and hope, my age group will be eligible. If something should change in the production chain and I can get vaccinated earlier, well, I certainly will do that. If I have jumped the gun and need to reschedule, I will do that, too. But all the talk and scheming and finagling and wrangling to procure a vaccine–anywhere– has heightened my anxiety, not lowered it.

Right now, I think, it should be enough—more than enough —to know that the vaccine will be in my arm soon. I am working to relax into this knowledge. And then I will get the second dose. When that happens I will sleep easier at night with one less little worry nagging at me. A luxury my mother had to wait years for.


Out of sheer boredom and the notion that, really, I should pamper myself in these times of isolation, I have taken to ordering all sorts of personal care products on-line. My Facebook page is lousy with pop-up ads for this stuff, and if you click on an ad, just once and by mistake, you will be inundated with them, too.

This clickbait is subversive and perhaps even a little bit evil, but I succumb on a regular basis. I ordered, on purpose, a subscription box from FabFitFun, because Leanne Morgan told me to. You know Leanne, the comedienne from Knoxville, with her hysterical video clips. She said it would be nice to treat ourselves during COVID, and yes, I thought. It would. Here came my winter box — they are curated by season — and in it I found the following.

A Vera Bradley cosmetic bag, small, but cute, and a really nice Pottery Barn diffuser set that is supposed to smell like the Solstice. Then all sorts of make-up and skin care products, all full size, and my favorite, a set of WEI “purify and glow” masks.

They arrived in a pretty little box with what looks like K-cups inside, each containing a dab of facial mask, applied with a soft brush (included) so I can, you know, purify and glow. The presentation is so nice I can’t bring myself to get into it, and I have so few people around I want to glow for, I have decided to save it for “good.”

You get to choose some of the things in the box they send you, but I didn’t, and so now I own Kate Spade workout socks. I don’t know what a workout sock is, still don’t, even after looking at them. They appear to be inferior no-shows, I will never wear them and I would be too embarrassed to re-gift them.

I stumbled across the Smallflower Modern Apothecary online shop, and this one was a keeper. They had me at “German formula Nivea.” You know Nivea, old-fashioned, granny-like, in the nice blue tin. Our US Nivea is not the same as their Nivea. The European formula is so much nicer, and I ordered some, just to have something to look forward to.

I ordered a few bars of Fa soap, too, an inexpensive brand I use in Olomouc. It isn’t particularly good soap, but I like smelling it and getting all nostalgic. The website is full of unusual and interesting products, and if nothing else, perusing it is a nice ten minute diversion.

When my Nivea arrived, I had already read comments on the webpage suggesting mixing it with organic almond oil to soften your skin to a luxurious degree. I tried it, and really, it was so very effective, but, you all, what a glopped up mess you are until it soaks in.

Which it does, and quickly, but be prepared.

As an alternative to all that slathering, I then found — and you know I purchased — Kate McLeod’s Sleep Stone. It is an all-natural puck of cocoa butter, almond oil and other good things, that you warm gently in your hands or rub all over yourself, and then you are moisturized and fragrant and off you go to bed. It comes with its own little muslin bag, and I am sucker for little muslin bags. I don’t know why.

My niece was glowing, just glowing at Thanksgiving, and I commented on it. She proceeded to give me the deets on her skincare regimen, which included both an exfoliant and moisturizer you can’t get in town. So I tracked them down elsewhere, and they have now arrived, sitting in their boxes, looking like they mean business—because the expensive stuff is always packaged like products that might require a prescription.

I haven’t used them yet, because I am setting up the particulars for a clinical trial, to see if I can tell a difference between them and my normal routine of rose hip oil and a plain white wash cloth.

But I draw the line at this… lip mask. Yes, a mask to use, it is recommended, for one week straight in the beginning, to moisturize and condition your lips. Full of Japanese peach extract, rose and camellia oil, to “protect and moisturize your pout.”

Honestly, I thought that was what greasy fried chicken was for.

Down the Rabbit Hole

I was burnishing a piece of writing and I couldn’t remember the song with the catchy refrain, “Černy Glaza,” the one we sang over and over again, deep into the night, somewhere in a Ukrainian forest.

Perhaps my writing would flow better if I could find this song on the internet, for surely, someone, somewhere, has recorded it. Youtube seemed so promising, but I turned up nothing. The problem, it turns out, is this. When I first searched for the song I guessed wrong at the spelling of the word, glaza, which I knew meant “eyes.”

My next attempt was much more successful. Oh, so successful. I decided to do a backward search using Google Translator and BOOM! There it was, the proper spelling. Scooted over to Youtube, and BOOM! again, Černy Glaza popped right up, and I recognized it immediately from the jaunty electronic keyboard intro to the repeating chorus, which came back to me in a rush. I pounded time on the table and sang along for at least five minutes.

What times we live in. No running to the library, sending letters and waiting for correspondence—for if Youtube had failed me a second time, I would merely have emailed my friend, Kveta, and asked her the song. Or even better, instant messengered my musician pal, Lenka, who is always on Facebook, and she would have told me. I might have to wait for a response until it is morning there, but really, not long.

If you looked at my phone right now, you would see exactly one game on it — sudoku. I can’t imagine playing games when there is all that great stuff to read out there, just with a click and a swipe. I look up things constantly. Constantly.

In November I was trying to find the name of a champagne I had tried and really liked. Before I went to find a bottle, I thought I might need to know how to pronounce it. I googled and there it was, and then I Youtubed a video to learn how to pronounce French wines, because I didn’t want to sound like a goober asking for it, but also, I didn’t want to sound like an affected snob, either, and get it wrong that way.

Luckily, it has a nice, straightforward name, with the first part already something we are familiar with, Perrier. But while I was there, I thought the nice Frenchman might ought to teach me how to pronounce other champagnes, just in case. He has several videos, so I watched them all.

It comes up so seldom, which champagne I prefer, but the next time it does, I will be ready. I may be so feeble by that time I need someone to hold the coupe to my lips as I dribble most of it down my front, but I will have pronounced it correctly.

And just now, researching the correct way to pronounce “coupe,” I have learned from a bubble physicist, Helen Czerski, that the perfect-shaped champagne glass is neither the flute nor the coupe. It is a wine glass with a bowl shaped like a brandy snifter, but not a snifter, served with the champagne poured only about half-way up. I know the part that holds the wine is called the bowl, because I looked that up, too, googling “anatomy of a wine glass.”

According to Dr. Czerski, this particularly shaped wine glass creates the slow bubble-making machine of the coupe, while capturing all the flavor bubbles that burst on our tongues and up our noses, like the flute. Turns out, smelling is one of the ways we taste. Czerski is the real deal, too, Cambridge trained, a bubble and ocean expert, and the author of “Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life.”

Which should arrive tomorrow, as I scooted over to Amazon and ordered a copy while you weren’t looking.

I might continue down this rabbit hole for a few more hours, and I can tell you with certainty I thought this column was going somewhere else altogether. But really, it was apt to be ponderous and preachy and not nearly as much fun as thinking about champagne bubbles bursting in our faces. Even if you never touch the stuff, still fun.

Perhaps I was a research assistant in another life, but I love knowing things. I love sharing what I learn. A lot. I don’t know why my friends find me so tiresome. I really don’t.

A resolute New Year

I’m not one for resolutions, too much pressure and all my passive-aggressive tendencies kick in and it isn’t attractive. I truly hate to be told what to do, even if it is me telling myself to do what I came up with in the first place. I will not tolerate it.

This probably isn’t the year to waste much time on resolutions, anyway. We have hope on the horizon, two vaccines out there now, and more on the way. But even with the most spectacular logistics, we will be in our bubbles and pods for some time to come, and if we have learned anything in 2020, its that, at a moment’s notice, things can change.

We toddle toward the new decade as we leave behind the old one, masked, sanitized, and paunchy with sour dough and banana bread overload. But maybe with some new skills we had forgotten we have.

Like reading for pleasure.

I have read more this year than ever. The classics, murder mysteries, award winners, pure trash. I’ve loved them all. Right this very minute I am supposed to be reading Dickens’ “Little Dorrit” with my book group. They wanted something nice and long for the holidays.

We ZOOM our weekly meetings. Don’t tell them, but I can’t seem to get beyond chapter six, because I put the book down and have to start all over, it’s Dickens, after all, and I forget what I’ve just read.

My friends will have read at least through chapter twenty-three or so. I don’t even bother writing down the reading assignments now because I will never catch up. But that doesn’t keep me from attending the meeting, and, I am not kidding, contributing. But mostly I just want to hear their voices and see their faces and listen to the discussion. They come prepared. They are like a set of human cliffsnotes performing just for me.

My life has grown quieter, simpler, although I am more aware of the passage of time than ever. It seems to move so slowly, and yet I get fewer things done in a day. Even so, I am as leisurely, as unperturbed as I have ever been about this lack of industry. And I was pretty unperturbed before the virus.

I wonder if we are marking time in a different way, what with all the upheaval and change upon change upon change. Certainly we have all had to relearn habits and moderate expectations, and that impacts the rhythms of our days.

As alone as I have been most days—and I am such an extrovert I have almost no inner life—I have rarely been lonely and have come to value solitude. There is a peace in aloneness that I have never sat still long enough to appreciate. And aloneness here doesn’t only mean being solitary… perhaps you have been alone with just your immediate family in a way that is new to you, and perhaps you, too, have found the value in being still together, with no place to be and no distractions to pull you away.

And maybe that togetherness got to be too much, and you decided that some fresh air would do you good. And off you went on nice long walks, or you dusted off your bike and rode into the wind. Or you dug in the dirt and planted herbs and flowers, or built pizza ovens, or created a whole new outdoor space where crab grass used to grow.

Human beings are amazing creatures. When we finally stood up and walked on two feet it created all this room for our brains to grow large in all the right places. We make exceptional use of those opposable thumbs. It helps us persevere. With broken and heavy hearts some days, and in spite of uncertainty, and frustration, and fear, we figure it out.

It isn’t as if this pandemic hasn’t taken a toll. You would never hear me say that. But we know what to do. We have been doing it. I suppose if I had one resolution, it would this.


Read those books, get out the calendar I once used for appointments and lectures and presentations and pencil in dates for morning walks, make note of ZOOM meetings and virtual yoga. Pay attention to the good lessons of 2020, and there were some. Be smart, but be brave, too. Pay attention. Reach out. Connect. Rest. Calm down. Wash those hands.