“Fast forward to Weird Easter 2020. I live next to a church in Athens whose Easter program has always been the usual elaborate Friday beeswax-candlelight procession with the bell tolling and the heavily overdressed clergy, the appointed mourners carrying a flower-smothered catafalque through the local streets and a trail of parishioners singing a dirge, meeting up with the similar parades from other churches, who all dirge together.”—Judith Lawrence Blish
Pawprints on The Bathroom Ceiling
By Judith Lawrence Blish
ATHENS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—I live in Greece and my children—stepchildren, legally, but heartwise my own—live in America. (Remember America? My country ‘twas of thee?) I haven’t seen them for years. We stay in close touch on Skype.
Stepmothers, too, see their children by maternal timescope—ever children. My Beth, a very intelligent grownup who has written a popular book on burnout, old enough to be a grandmother herself but still my little girl, has been planning a visit to Greece, touching base with her other connections in Europe. She’s allergic to my cats, and I found her a sweet Airbnb right across the street from me and we booked it for the last two weeks of May, the end of her long tour. Countdown began. Then the news came from Wuhan. She is medically trained, and when I suggest on the day she leaves Oregon that maybe she should postpone her trip till we see what’s going on “because people here are already masking,” she reiterates the then news—not that fatal, etc. I had not realized how very st—, er, determined she’s become!
So she lands in Portugal on March 3, spends a few days being a tourist, sending frequent messages and photos, and on the 10th starts for Madrid. And loses her iPhone. And disappears. Her itinerary says she is in an Airbnb with wifi—no phone.
Madrid shuts down with a clang. She manages to make one call from the US embassy and at last agrees to give up and go home—and her back is giving her trouble: nothing like 18 hours on airplanes for that!
But where is she now? Has she found a flight? Has the embassy helped any? When? Where? Ah! She has checked in with her husband and he’s booked her on a flight. Whew. But bad news is arriving like machine gun bullets. In the course of all this, I discover that if you want to know what’s happening to a flight, you enter the airline code. i.e. AA, + flight number and get a very informative site with all the departures, delays, and so forth. We think it might be good to book a wheelchair, especially if there is to be standing in lines. He does—and for those who do not know, it makes any flight a lot easier; you don’t have to carry your luggage, an attendant takes you to your connection or customs and you whiz through the queues.
By this time the US has shut down most of the airports. We try to make sure she’s actually on the flight. I find, to my amazement, a local Greek phone number for the airline—which has been inaccessible earlier—but at 2:34 a.m. somebody answers. She’s indeed booked on that flight—but, um, er, not aboard. He very kindly explains that she’s been put on another airline going to Chicago instead of Dallas to change for a flight to Oregon. She’ll have to stay overnight. I am very worried about her backache, and then we get those awful photos of the thousands of passengers at O’Hare in Chicago, jammed together like sardines, unprotected, standing in line for six hours. . . . I can only hope the wheelchair helps. In fact, she does get whisked through the crowd. By this time, my son-in-law and I are holding electronic hands, 5,000 miles apart. He’s doing all the bookings at his end; I’m doing online research and phone calls. Neither of us has been able to actually speak to her for what seems like weeks.
Happily, from Chicago on, it works out as planned and to the enormous relief of us all she is safe at home.
God knows when we will ever meet again.
Fast forward to Weird Easter 2020. I live next to a church in Athens whose Easter program has always been the usual elaborate Friday beeswax-candlelight procession with the bell tolling and the heavily overdressed clergy, the appointed mourners carrying a flower-smothered catafalque through the local streets and a trail of parishioners singing a dirge, meeting up with the similar parades from other churches, who all dirge together. Then at midnight on Saturday comes the wild clamor of bells and fireworks and the sacred candle flame is passed from one person to another so as to smoke a cross on the doorway of each house and the square is filled with cheerful cries of Christos anesti’s! And chronia polla’s! General celebration as they all head home to eat the special magaritsa soup— once long ago I had foolishly expected margaritas—not at all the same. This year, the bells toll a little now and then. There‘s no procession. There’s a brief howl of prayer from the loudspeaker, and at midnight two or three pathetic popgun shots in lieu of fireworks, the lights go on, the bells ring for two minutes and the empty square is occupied by a couple of cats.
Greece has done very well with the lockdown and people have been sensible. The delivery people from the supermarkets, who used to have only occasional trips, are working their tails off for extra hours. Places which normally did not deliver have started electronic shopping sites.
But we can’t ever go back any more than we can revisit our childhood. The amazing changes in the environment must give us pause. We have to redefine progress and the economy and consider what worthwhile means. So much technological change is suddenly snapping into our lives at top speed even as we come to new appreciation of the work that requires human input like, say, presidential and medical judgment, friends rallying to make needed supplies like masks.
I have just watched a film online, Michael Moore’s new “Planet of The Humans,” whose shocking revelations may or may not relate to this sudden, mysterious viral attack. There is no such thing as green energy.
Life will never be the same as it was three months ago.