Carol Smallwood, MLS, MA, Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, is a literary reader, judge, interviewer; her 13th poetry collection is Thread, Form, and Other Enclosures (Main Street Rag, 2020)
CAROL SMALLWOOD - INTERVIEW OF LOIS RUSKAI MELINA
Wilderness House forthcoming winter 2021
Interview of Lois Ruskai Melina
Lois Ruskai Melina, author
Paper back: 182 pages; $16.95: Kindle $5.99
Publisher: Shanti Arts LLC (September, 2020)
A reviewer, Rene Denfeld, longlisted for an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, observes about The Grammar of Untold Stories: “Each essay acts like the surface of water, inviting us to explore deeper. Family, children, infertility, and loss are just some of the issues explored in this brilliant book." After receiving a PhD in Leadership Studies, Lois Ruskai Melina taught in universities and her research focused on social movements and leadership. The word essay comes from “to try” and Melina’s collection with its touches of humor rises to the challenge on several contemporary issues. The author lives in Oregon with her husband where she enjoys rowing, and women's soccer; she has a grown son and daughter, and two grandchildren.
Smallwood: The title essay, “The Grammar of Untold Stories,” was a Notable Essay in Best American Essays, 2018 and a finalist for the North American Review’s Torch Prize and the New Letters Prize for Nonfiction. What other prizes have you received?
Kiese Laymon chose my essay, “Down in the River to Pray,” for the 2016 Best of the Net Anthology (Sundress Publications). “The Scent of Water” was a finalist for the John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Prize at Crab Orchard Review. My short story, “Goat-Song,” was a finalist in the Lamar York Prize for Fiction contest at The Chattahoochee Review and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
The essay collection as a whole was a finalist in contests by three publishers before it was accepted by Shanti Arts.
Smallwood: Your economical use of words—lyrical to narrative with deft dialogue, covers several contemporary issues. Please share with readers some:
For personal essays to be meaningful for readers, they have to explore issues or experiences that resonate beyond the author’s life. In “Bread and Roses,” I describe my efforts to start a union at a newspaper I worked at in the 1970s, but I weave my experience in with historical material about women in the labor movement—many of whom were also newspaper journalists and suffragists. Of course, in talking about unions and activism, one has to talk about power. I consider how activism—from labor strikes to the 2017 Women’s March—creates an awareness of how power is held in the body.
“Obstruction,” which is about the last weeks of my mother’s life, explores ethical questions about end-of-life issues (and also the power of the medical establishment—I often come back to “power” in these essays.) “Down in the River to Pray” describes my efforts to find a missing nephew who had been diagnosed with HIV after moving to New York City in the late 1980s.
Smallwood: What are some literary journals you have appeared? Are they essays also? Do you write poetry, fiction? When did you begin writing?
I’ve had essays in some wonderful literary journals: Colorado Review, Lunch Ticket, Sport Literate, Literary Mama, and The Carolina Quarterly are just a few.
I don’t think of myself as a poet, but a couple of these essays were published as prose poems—“Still Life with Birds” in Entropy and “Wings” in Eastern Iowa Review. I wasn’t getting acceptances from journals that I’d submitted them to as essays, and I considered that perhaps they were more lyrical than some nonfiction editors liked, so I decided to submit them as prose poems. But I wrote them as essays so they are included in the collection.
I wrote nonfiction for so much of my life as a journalist that I’d never considered writing fiction until recently. Blood Orange Review and The Chattahoochee Review have published both my fiction and nonfiction.
I began writing for my high school newspaper, continued in college as a journalism major and after graduation worked in public relations a bit before taking a job as a newspaper reporter. After my husband and I adopted in 1980, I realized there was very little information for new adoptive parents, so I started a subscription-based newsletter, Adopted Child, which I published for about 20 years. During that time I also wrote three books on adoption published by HarperCollins. After that, I wanted to write about something different, so I followed nine of the top female swimmers in the United States for eighteen months leading up to the 2000 Olympic Trials and published their stories in the book By a Fraction of a Second (Sports Publications). I was happy with that book in a lot of ways, but I also realized when I was finished that I wanted to tell stories differently, and I began taking creative writing classes and writing personal essays.
Smallwood: You include your grandmother and mother in your essay collection. How have they shaped your writing? What women writers have influenced your writing?
I loved to read when I was growing up—I think most writers say that. When I was little, the public library was at the end of our block, and my mother and I would walk there and check out books. I had two sisters several years older than I am, and I became acquainted with a range of books through their interests and recommendations.
The Nancy Drew mystery series was an early favorite of mine, probably because she was spunky and adventurous with a lot of agency. I didn’t know until much later that the author Carolyn Keane was actually a pseudonym for a number of different writers, but most of the books were written by Mildred Wirt Benson. I still love to read mystery/suspense/thrillers—like those by Rene Denfield, which are literary and deal with contemporary issues in addition to being suspenseful.
When I read Lidia Yuknavitch’s, memoir, The Chronology of Water, it totally changed the way I looked at writing memoir and personal essay. She takes risks and pushes boundaries in a way that I hadn’t considered as a journalist who was trained in a particular relationship with narrative. Roxane Gay has also influenced me in that way.
I’ve been fortunate to take several of the Corporeal Writing workshops with Lidia. Many of the essays in this collection started in or were revised in one of her workshops.
I’ve been a fan of Terry Tempest Williams’ books for a long time, and I think my comfort with weaving the natural world into my writing is influenced by her writing.
Smallwood: The sixteen essays in The Grammar of Untold Stories are divided into Family, Work, Home. How did you decide on the title? How long did it take to write?
The title of the collection is also the title of one of my favorite essays in the book. But I also thought it represented one of the themes that shows up throughout the collection, which is how we make sense of what we don’t know. Grammar is the structure that we use to make sense out of words, and stories are the structures that we use to make sense out of experiences. But sometimes we have incomplete narratives, secrets, missing information. My interest in this goes back to my writing about adoption and the awareness of how often children who have been adopted must try to piece together their stories out of incomplete information.
The collection took about three years to write.
Smallwood: Have you seen changes in women getting published, the questions they are asking?
I definitely think women are breaking barriers in publishing in terms of getting greater recognition for their work and in challenging some of the norms when it comes to forms, characters, and topics. Writers like Maggie Nelson and Rebecca Solnit are demonstrating that there is a big audience for smart writing. But at the same time, I’m aware that this is still a struggle—still requires effort.
What I would like to see is the age bias addressed in publishing—particularly as it relates to women authors and women characters. A literary journal recently announced a themed issue for writers over 60. To me, that’s an admission that older writers are marginalized and require an affirmative effort to accept their work. Older women often feel invisible and I think this bias is alive and well in the publishing world. I’d like to see more older women as protagonists—without them being stereotyped as sexless, clueless, and frumpy. I recently read a mystery by a male author in which the detective was a woman in her 60s who had not advanced in her job because of sex discrimination. She was an active hiker and skier and involved in a new romantic relationship. It was so refreshing!
Smallwood: Please share what you are writing now, and how living in Oregon relates to your work:
I’ve lived in Oregon since 2008. Before that I lived in Idaho for almost 30 years. I’ve been an active outdoors person that entire time. So my writing reflects the natural world—rivers and mountains and hiking and rowing. A sense of place is important to my work. I hope readers of “Wings,” for example, feel the heat and dust and steepness of that hike. In “The Synchronicity of Healing,” I hope readers get a sense of what it’s like to row in the hours before dawn or in a race
I’m working on a novel that has three intertwined narratives set in France, Iceland, and the Pacific Northwest, chosen in part because of my fascination with each of those environments and how it shapes the people who live there. The protagonists are women of various ages who are in relationships with other women—as lovers, as friends, as sisters. It’s a lot to take on for a first novel!
PSALM 23 (NKJV)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want
Help me to have faith for each day and not worry about tomorrow. I know You care tenderly for me, what more is there to want?
He makes me lie down in green pastures
When my days are filled with endless anxiety, I can easily forget You. When there is suddenly a roadblock in my plans, help me to see this as Your gentle
reminder to seek You first, Your will, Your direction. I don’t want to wallow in self-pity because my plans didn’t turn out the way I planned. I want to want only
He leads me beside the still water
Not rushing, turbulent waters but still, peaceful waters reminding me of how much I need that quiet time with You, where I can regain the strength I long for,
focusing on You alone.
He restores my soul
You renew my mind. You revive my will and soothe my emotions, provide healing where I have been so wounded by this life.
He leads me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake
You encourage me to always choose to do the right thing, helping those in need, comforting the elderly, caring for the sick, remembering that I represent You
wherever I may go.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me
When I am afraid, and I fear the darkness will overtake me, I will praise You through the pain. You encourage me to keep on walking,
step by step, out of the shadow into Your light.
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me
A shepherd protects his sheep if they should wander into danger or stumble on their path. You protect me from hidden dangers all around, many that are
invisible. With Your staff You gently guide me back if I should stray from the path of my life. Your love and Your Word comfort me.
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies
My enemies might be fear, sadness, or the corona virus-You have defeated them all! They are under Your feet at the victor’s table. I will praise You through the
You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows
I have the presence of the Holy Spirit with me because You have anointed me. May Your presence overflow into the lives of all that I meet.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life
Because of Your great promises, because of Your great love, I have hope and I am never alone.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever
I know that when the door closes on today, You will be waiting to walk with me into tomorrow and I will be with You for all eternity!
LETTER TO GOD
We’ve been friends even as my mother conceived me. You told her that you love me. You told her that everything that concerns me touches you in the heart. You told her that you knew me even before she conceived me. You said to her: that my expectation shall not be cut off by any man or any woman. You said to her, that you are my pillar and my fortress and my strong tower and nothing is too hard for you to do for me. I know you as you knew me right from the beginning of time immemorial. Then, why has the mountain failed to move? Why is the pillar holding the world shaking? Why the world has kept basking on my weaknesses? Why has evil triumph over me? Where are you? Where is your will? Why are your ears too far from my words? Why your mouth is close to command this sickness out of the way? Why have they tormented us this far like we have no father above? Why free the Devil to use us like he wants? Why? Why? I ran to mother in the deadly hours of the night, I saw her in supplication to no one else but you.
I saw that Chinedu was still sick. I saw tears in the face of Father, father whose mighty hands built the church cathedral. I could remember when he said that you told him to give all his best and he gathered some of his brothers and sisters and sold the whole lands he inherited from his father. He gave the proceeds to the church of God according to the prophecy. He called it a seed, yes, he called it a seed to God and we all believed him because he believed in you. He was mocked by all but he waited. He waited for you to answer him but you were far, far from him. may the time has not come, maybe, he might be lucky if he waits a little longer. You were not there to rescue him when sickness came. You were not there to rescue him when he had an accident. You should have averted the accident to somewhere else because he pays his tithe and gives his offer. Father’s favourite line from the holy Book says that:
“…And you will devour the devourer and the cankerworms…”
That was the lines we grew up hearing him quote each time he was counting his tithe and whenever he paid his tithe. You were not there to heal his second daughter Chikamso. She died in pains of Cancer and was buried while you watched from heaven.
Meanwhile, father trusted in you. You said that those that trusted in you will never be put to shame but he did. Look at mother in supplication every now and then. She had made the kitchen her home. The kitchen where the memories of Chikamso started, the kitchen where she first collapsed, the kitchen where Kambili died; the kitchen where her dog was poisoned; the kitchen where she birthed Mary, her memories started right here in the kitchen not in the bedroom but here where seeking for freedom is the deadliest thing that ever happened to mankind. Nothing is worth anything to a dead man, not even his money. It is how boys were raped and we could not see God come to their rescue in the midst of many deadly torments and torture. It is how girls were abused and we could not lay hands on the mercy of God rather his words came before the sun of the day to hurt us fiercely on our craving skins. It is how we were taking into exile and the spirit of God was nowhere to be found. It is how our brothers and sisters were killed on the gory land called Nigeria. We could not fine God in their midst yet, we believed that he is ever present to us.
Mother is still in the kitchen, father is still holding on tears just like what the society told him that a man must not cry because he is a man, that a man must not show his weaknesses because he is a man. God, now that Mary is no more here to sing of how great you are, our mouths are ceased of praises. How could you have allowed Mary to leave us here alone? How could you have allowed her to journey alone in the void places holding no one by her side? Who would then sing in this morning devotion? Who would then raise a song of praises to you without holding back his tears? We are all dying, and we must all die if Mary did not return home. Maybe death is the safest place to lay down ourselves till eternity. Her smiling portrait rests on the heart of every one of us, capped with a lonely empty feeling. How could you’ve allowed death to snatch her away from us? How could you have allowed her the freedom to paradise without first consulting her? You further made her pass through pains and sorrow before you took her away. Why?
Now, who will go to church with her Bible to worship you? Who will then clap hands like her in the church if she did not return? Is Cruelty served in your plate? You took her down so bitterly with no complain; agony randomly blue ticked all her texts. She endured the pains and wished for the best but the best never came to her. Even when the world within her was at rest, no favors, and no gains, just a troublesome quest, but wait, why do we run to you after being frightened? Why do we forget you’re the same God that cares nothing about us in this side of the world? Why do we pray if not for it to be answered? The Demons use us here like we were some rolls of paper, like we were a blunt meant to be finished but make sure their feelings were satisfied, they use us like a peddler, only when they need us.
Should I tell papa to go to the altar and take back the money he sowed as a seed for the wellbeing of Mary? Should I tell mother to stop fasting or to go to church and request for her car that she sowed as an offering for Mary’s recovery? Anyways, you are still God with or without those things and us. You are still there as God and no one can question your authority as they rightly said. But, I am bringing this to you that Satan is not at rest and you should not be at rest also. If Mary after all she had done in the house of God could die then life itself is meaningless to every human being. Having this thought all day long makes me think of losing myself to the wind. It makes me want to rest myself in the vacuum of lonely days till the trumpet will sound for Christ to come to our rescue if possible. Tomorrow sounds good and poisonous defining the art through which we were made. Tomorrow is a school of thought with the definition of unknown and you know you made it so. If only we could number our days here on earth; man will be better than he is now. If only tomorrow is known to us, man would learn how to manage himself to the fullest but tomorrow is unknown.
Papa has being on a wheel chair for the past fifteen years. He had an accident doing your work. Sister Amaka has not given birth for the past ten years and she is among the pastors in the church. She counseled a sister who wanted to abort her child yesterday. Later today, she heard that the same sister has ended up aborting the child. I know your time is the best but she is being mocked by people she is better than. They looked straight into her eyes and mock her aggressively. Even those she called sons and daughters in the Lord mock her also. We were told that the devil locked up her womb because she is a Christian. Is that so? Where are you, God?
Brother Ezeugo lost his job last year because he was caught preaching the gospel to one of his coworkers. We all know that these are temptations to show your supremacy over all things but you are still God with or without all these temptations. And now Ogba is suffering of pile…! I know you know about this but, when will all this end? Should we switch places and find peace somewhere else? Should we tell them that you are no longer God? Should we continue to plead that we may be called humans? No!
Yesterday, I was in the church again and the man of God spoke about heaven and hell. He taught us about paradise on earth and an ensnaring hell fire for sinners. He said there is a Hell fire waiting for all sinners, those who disobeyed God. I was surprise hearing this again. I was astonished of how a lovely father would punish his children in the lake of fire because of disobedient. I was wondering why but I could not get an answer to the question. I wonder how you will feel seeing your children that you created burn and scream for help from the fire. Would you just close your eyes and ears for us to burn till eternity or would you quash the fire when you have mercy on us or would you just allow us to perish? If so, why did you create us, for you to burn us like that?
When Mary was alive, she was a chorister. Later, she was ordained as a pastor and she was up and doing. She did all that she could to put smiles on people’s faces. She won many souls to the kingdom and was called mother Theresa of our generation. She built many foundations where the motherless and the orphans could be taken care of but after all, she died as a no body.
She died just like a fowl. She asked that I suck her memories away; she asked that I be her eyes, so i began from the beginning of her making until she gave up the ghost— i touched her like feathers on the wings of a seabird on the day she gave up as a human. She floated and ached in my bones but I asked for peace but it was far away from me. Peace which no one could give but only you. I shivered and woke in her skin, i nibbled into her nipples but all was lifeless to the core. I and her mother and her father moaned looking at her face lying on the bed. Her spirit taught us how to run, to disallow little demons from telling us how her vagina looks like. I think you know all of this. I know you know them all, God. Life has taught us to wear the cloths of our fathers and that of misery — "riches are never available” that was what misery told us. Life said that we should be scarce; we cannot cut our heart for a river flowing with dismissal.
Life is a docile, a door less room where everything escape at will. Life is a misery only known to it by itself.
Let’s learn how to plant our lips only on our mouth day and night so that we could suck out mother and her mother’s dirge and her father's mother elegy before the black goats go into the dark night to look for yams to misuse. Let’s turn our hands into a song from which your mouth ache again and again at your inabilities. We are all humans learning to throw ourselves to the world like our kites dangling to wind songs without holding anything as a common desire to hurt others of their misfortunes. In the terrain of blue skies, we will become tired humans learning to empty our wisdoms through the names of the grave but before then, let’s knit to our father's names to look for why our prayers take time to be answered and why we die and where we could find death. How do you think you carve the name of death after you die?
On the sand towers? On the bridge of hope or on the bodies of the skies?
God, do you know I gave myself big eyes and big dreams and big faiths and big distance and bigger height just like the Egyptian’s pyramid? Do you know that when time becomes darkness we must beat with torchlight? I may not likely tell you that I am not asking, you know I have being asking and waiting for the answer; no Raven remained in the sky to convey my messages to you, none. I seek the boldness of the wind to take my pleas to you so that life will not make me feel like a fatherless when you are still alive. Just in case I misstep, just in case I no longer dream; just in case I may think of losing it all, just us in separate worlds dancing in the wind.
It is how I and father and mother and the remaining brothers of mine took the stairs in our lives with bowties of everyday barriers because the songs of human are a case in the courtyard of perpetuity. There are stories in the eyes of those boys who went and never came to this world. There are somehow prices in the eyes of those women and men who are murdered every day in our streets? There are untold tales in the mouths of those our brothers and sisters who were killed by terrorists groups and herdsmen! There are many stories, dear God. Why were they brought to this world in the first place? Why are we here? To drink, produce and die?
Flinging mangoes against the window netting and making the electric wires hit each other and spark bright orange flames, is how men and women are lured into brokenness, because each time day breaks, it reminds men to work harder and toil more than the veins in their bodies because sweating is how a man poses and take pictures to remind himself of how he started. This is how our stories are told anywhere where the world is said to be round and flat. Every day, the human race is scrunched up with the noses at the smell of bloody fresh meat and musty dried fish and their heads are lowered from the bees that buzzed in thick clouds over the sheds of the honey sellers. This is what you made us to be, it is how we became skeleton in our memories and talking to a father who made us became somehow rowdy and sometimes we scream and curse and clap our hands knowing very well that those pastors that were said are called by God told us to do so. It is how men and women became thirsty on the tongues of sweet neglects. Like one time, a boy and a girl were raped like a moth-eaten blouse slipping off from a woman's shoulder just how every day explains how tailored the tears of a boy child and a girl child, a man and a woman become once its drops from their eyes and you were nowhere to be found to rescue them not even their fellow human came to rescue them.
You walked on oceans, i stretched into my body into your eyes, we both wanted to see what it really meant to be called a God; one small, one big. To course through the skin of a sky or float into the windpipe of yesterday when we were still blood and water will have us thinking like we once existed here. Tell me, is there really Hellfire? Is there really ghost? Is there really spirit? Is there really Satan? How did the fight of the growing gods broke out in heaven? Who were the judges, Angels? I am confused here just like everyone else. The African traders are home now, all wailing of their lost sons and daughter whom they will never see again. The street has ceased to accommodate us, it’s deserted. What are our offenses? They said human blood had redesigned their bodies. Tell me, why do you allow much blood to spill all over the place? And those who were killed without their knowledge of it, will they still go to hell fire to be burned?. Your skin our iris, is a monument, is a collection of fire of anguish to burn us all till eternity. We burn, you gnash like a father watching his children dying silently. This is not what every book called a lover's God should contain. They said it is not everything I find here that looks like you but you create them all. They said you are white or Pink or what have you, who does Africans look like, Ape? But you created us in your Image isn’t it? I am confused here! Totally confuse but it is a mystery why we are here.
Remember, Ogba is still sick of pile. Yesterday, a prophetess laid hand on him to be healed and gave him holy water to drink but he is still hoping for healing. Remember he must not die on the 4th of May. He must not die just like Mary died. You have to bless him and make him the light you promised. He has to bring his family to the lime light, he has to.
I may not be able to share kola nut with you as it is being done in the heart of Igbo men when they gather to deliberate on the issue hurting them. I may not be able to render some praises to you at this moment because of the urgency tailored for my voice to be hearkened.
Maybe we’ll switch places and find peace somewhere without the gospel or maybe we hold the gospel waiting for that glorious day of the coming or the last day between death and life.
Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from a specific decade.
grandma's dress smells of mothballs
Few remember the printed Sears Mail-order Catalogue. It vanished like coal for home-heating, oil lamps, match-lit ovens, ice boxes. When grandma came for dinner and her dress smelled of mothballs, I knew it was time to seasonally shop. My mother's twin brothers had December 25 birthdays. Buying presents in person was work; having a heavy Sears book handed to me, along with request forms, was fantasy.
I first always searched for the newest ice figure-skates, pictured in white-leather, and pretended they were mine. In my daydream, I could actually smell the leather and also hear silver bells jingling on laces. I already had tiny bells strung on my current skates’ fasteners. I imagined myself twirling wearing a velvet skirt lined in crimson silk, and could almost hear my mother’s voice telling me my legs are going to get cold. I wondered why there were no such things as warm stockings that pulled on like leggings. Oh, well, I wasn’t shopping for me.
Fantasy needed setting. I turned on the almost-hidden radio; it was built into the side of our wooden French-Provincial style living room false-flame fireplace; then I squat and switched on an electric knob near the non-burning clump of logs. A tiny fan, with red cellophane covering a small light bulb, gave weakly illuminated logs the illusion of flickering fire. That was the place to review the yearly catalogue.
Scented bath salts? Maybe for my mother instead of the purple-bottle perfume from Woolworth’s. Oh, gauzy gowns, on pages, looked as if they'd float while waltzing with my uncle, the best dancer ever, who'll ballroom dance with me when I grow up. Must find his birthday present...the men's section. Yes, I have enough allowance-money left to send for a silky new shaving brush for daddy; the sable hairs are so soft, just like my oil paint brushes. Can I print my order with South Seas blue ink, my trademark? How my teachers hate my lack of conformity.
With radio's Battle of the Baritones, and faint whirring of tiny fan blades forcing the red cellophane to ripple under the false fireplace logs, I imagined a future of romance, energy, giggling, achievement. Grandma's mothball smell on her winter wool clothing always signaled year-end contemplation and mail-order.
Gone are my parents, the uncle twins, other relatives. Their deaths are truly forever while there are a few "things" that have a way of resurfacing. Remember 'never again' convertible phrase when air-conditioned cars became widely available? How about 'never again' ceiling fans with wide blades to circulate steamy air; bulky bed comforters; returning glass bottles or other items for deposit? Wasn't radio considered finished when television became accessible to all? Who'd buy natural cotton with maximum maintenance when polyester sheds wrinkles? Fountain pens with leaky ink were made obsolete by ball point clean, but they’re status symbols and comfortable writing pieces once more.
My adult children sometimes like hearing stories of a time before television, computers, air-conditioned cars, smartphones, and other technology that is familiar in their lives. These must seem as dated as log cabins, outhouses, single-room schoolhouses, I suspect. But they have asked if shopping was complicated when gifts were inked on paper-forms submitted by regular mail. I’d rather have a computer than my Remington portable typewriter that weighed about 26 pounds, I prefer self-cleaning ovens, speakerphones, climate-controlled houses/cars, airline cabins that are pressurized, high-definition television sets, CD’s rather than cumbersome 78 rpm record, and so forth. But I remember, years ago, saying that much comes full circle so it’s possible, though not probable, for glossy catalogues to come back for other generations to ink in requests on printed forms.
December 2020. Global virus has affected all humans. Sears doesn’t exist even as a physical store anymore. There’s a different way of shopping without entering a premise. Online. So we search the ‘net’, press a digit on a desired-visible item, fill out a form via speaking or typing it on the tech device, let the next ‘page’ have a credit card number, and the process is complete. Santa’s elves don’t pull our requests from shelves and ship them out, but many robots do the work releasing humans to pick up other tasks. Didn’t I do a bit of that with the cumbersome catalogue and mail-in forms?
Gas-lit fireplaces are more popular than woodburning, and, with just a switch, offer a glow to a room. Some heat is provided as a bonus. My childhood false one completely covered a real brick behind it, and that was usual for the time-period; no heat, but cellophane crackle and gentle illumination happened.
Eventually few will remember the Pandemic, and life will resume with social gatherings, live theatre, shopping malls busy, crowded streets. Some online purchasing probably will continue for convenience. Yet, for me, just a distinct aroma from a box of mothballs will still signal seasonal changes.
a version of this was published 1994 Gannett News
reprinted 2008 The Jewish Press