Why my kitchen smells like the nurse’s office in elementary school.

the meadow labyrinth in June last year, these might be coreopsis

So I made a bet with myself, that if I could remember what the elementary school nurse’s name was, I would have to sit down and explain why my kitchen smells like her office.

Her name was Miss Heal.

Hmmm, I was going to read a book before dinner prep.

She was the aunt of a friend of mine and was the nurse for several decades at our school. When you went into her office she sat you down in a chair, asked what was bothering you, and then always….always took your temperature. A good practice. She would go to her little official glass thermometer holding jar and take out a thermometer, shake it down, then come at you with an, “Open up.” So the smell was of alcohol and I now wonder if the thermometer got wiped off or if it went straight into our bird like subservient mouths. Huh.

In first grade I had chicken pox, measles, mumps, and numerous tonsillitis infections. I loved my tonsils as they kept me home quite a bit in elementary school. I was very conflicted about school. I liked quite a bit of it, the outdoor games, dodge ball, etc, I liked to read, and perform in plays, but I never colored within the lines. You know about those of us who do not, willfully I might add, color within the lines.

But I digress. My kitchen smells of alcohol tonight because my husband made a new batch of alcohol wipes out of a half roll of paper towels, as in you hack the roll in half length wise, and put it into a plastic hot and sour soup container, then pour alcohol all over it. Wait, I forgot you take out the interior cardboard roll after cutting in half. Then when you open the plastic soup container you reach into the center of the roll and a perfect little alcohol wipe spirals up, all soaked in alcohol. He found the directions online and it really works.

So why was I cleaning off the central island in the kitchen with alcohol wipes, smelling of my childhood memories?

We grocery shopped today.

For good or ill my husband and I think in long chains of actions and consequences. This is beginning April 2020, and it is as different to beginning March 2020 as could be possible. We went to my chiropractic appointment in full mask, head and glasses gear…not to mention nitrile gloves. No one else was wearing a mask. Hardly anyone in our small town was wearing a mask. The grocery store workers were not wearing masks, just positioned behind plastic barriers at check out and constantly spraying and wiping down the credit card machine and asking customers to maintain a 6 foot distance. As our son pointed out, when you pass someone in an aisle, holding your breath doesn’t make a difference you are still about a foot away from the other shopper.

So we wash everything that comes out of the store that other, numerous others, have handled. Cans and bags are fine, fresh veggies, are somewhat more intricate, but I get the job done. Everything is finally put away and then I alcohol all the counters, ergo the genesis of the childhood memory.

I am making a few cotton masks for us and putting things inside as filters, i.e. wool, cotton. As they say, it’s not going to prevent the virus from getting to us, just protecting others. I actually felt less creepy today in the grocery store with gloves and mask on. All of our clothes come off after being in public and into the wash. We have an array of shoes on the porch for public, garden, walks, etc. Other indoor shoes await us in their little space to proceed inside. You don’t want to hear how we get into and out of the car….

So life has changed. I am sewing cotton masks on my mother’s old Singer, (about 50 years, possibly 60 years old), and I remember all of the items she would create on that machine. In addition to all of the clothing for all of us and I mean three generations, she often sewed sweet nighties, and small clothing for children in the Leper colonies that her church sponsored. Ahh, the world always presents us with dis- ease.

But I thought, she taught me how to sew…and it was a treadle machine back then. That I have ten working fingers still amazes me. I was not a coordinated child. And I thought, I need to teach my grandchildren to sew…..really an important skill in these uncertain times. Yet the future may hold different solutions to the same problems, as in the Boy Scout who was asked to help his local nurses and doctors out by making more of the little plastic tabs he had made before that kept the elastic on their masks off their ears and attached to this device to lessen the pressure on their ears. So he went to his 3D printer and made more.

So I will add to my gratitude journal tonight that I am grateful I know how to sew. I am delighted my mother passed down that skill to me. I am happy for the rain today as it washed the pollen down. I can breathe fresh air. No TP or eggs, but we will make do. It’s a lot like camping.

There’s a lot to be grateful for these days.

Take care?

Stay safe out there.

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