When Everything Changed - Pt 2

Dana Lemaster

“Perseverance is not a long race; It is many short races one after the other”

Walter Elliott

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Recap: Part I describes my experiences at the beginning of lockdown and how a family emergency caused me to rethink my approach to writing A Death In Hartsend.

A New Approach

It had become clear that I hadn’t yet written the story I wanted to tell. And as I’ve stated elsewhere, memory has limitations as a resource tool. If I wanted to broaden the scope of this story, I needed to broaden my knowledge base.

I’ve always done background reading as part of  my projects, but nothing like what I did in lockdown. Being at home so much certainly gave me that opportunity. The turbulence of  2020, reminiscent of my teenage years, may have acted as a spur.  For whatever reason, I found myself reading quite a lot of history that year. Since A Death in Hartsend is set in 1970 Kentucky, I read books relating to that.

I’ll comment more fully on my reading in another post. For now, I’ll mention two books had a profound effect on me during that period. The first is Brown to Meredith: The Long Struggle for School Desegregation in Louisville, Kentucky 1954-2007 by Tracy E. K’Meyer. It’s a comprehensive history and discussion of the school desegregation movement in Louisville. I found the oral history narratives and newspaper accounts to be particularly helpful as I worked to recreate this scene in my mind.

When Mom heard about K’Meyer’s book, she asked me to buy a copy for her. Mom read the book in two days and then reread it. She began recommending it to friends, especially teachers and people with an interest in history.

I was also quite impressed by Going to School in Black and White: A Dual Memoir of Desegregation by Cindy Waszak Geary and LaHoma Smith Romocki. Two teenage girls-one white, one black- take part in a court-ordered desegregation plan for Durham NC in 1970. Whereas the K’Meyer book is on a large scale, this is more intimate. I truly appreciate Geary and Romocki’s willingness to share their experiences with such honesty.

Coping Together

Prior to lockdown, I’d been part of several online communities. Some of these related to my work, but some of them related more to my interests in film and reading. These became even more important during lockdown. X, formerly known as Twitter, was a big coping mechanism for me during 2020. I especially enjoyed doing group watches with the #TCMParty and #NoirAlley communities.

My exercise instructor, who was now unable to teach at our gym, started doing classes on Zoom. It took a little work to create a home exercise space and some make-shift equipment. For example, I created my own free weights by putting cat litter in empty bottles. My improvised weights leaked every so often, but they did good service overall.

A group of us also reached out via email. We sent cheerful messages and videos. I remember one with a link to YoYo Ma and Kathryn Stott. It later became part of Songs of Comfort and Hope. If someone felt overwhelmed and needed an ear, we did our best to listen.

My sister and I spoke or messaged often. Her recovery was more complicated than doctors thought originally; she managed it with incredible strength and grace. I remain in awe of her courage.

On the weekends, my husband and I spent the time watching films. We made a list of directors who interested us, then we tried watching as many films as possible by each of them. During lockdown, we got through all the films of Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, and Jacques Tati. We are still working through the films of Satyajit Ray, because we enjoy them.

Rejoining The World

Time went on and, slowly, restrictions lifted. After so much time spent indoors and alone, we had to learn how to be around people again. We began going back to movie theaters and even made plans to visit Mom in Kentucky for Mother’s Day. For the first time since Covid, we went back to our favorite restaurant. We didn’t talk about anniversary plans, though. Just being there seemed like a gracious plenty.

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