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Publisher’s Letter: Modern Miracles

Ashley Sexton Gordon. Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes.

I was in my bedroom—at my writing desk used as a bedside table now turned into a home office space complete with full-size monitor and
rolling office chair (don’t ask how I got them)—when I heard the slow, loud crack and then the crash. It jolted me right out of my writing. I looked to the large floor-to-ceiling windows that frame our backyard just in time to see a huge limb hit the ground. My husband was wielding a chainsaw on a pole amidst branches that once were attached to a tree outside my window. It was a Thursday morning, quarantine time.

We are not handy people.

We are not the kind of people that install light fixtures or change the oil in our cars. We don’t know how to lay tile in a new bathroom or unclog a drain without chemicals. We have tools, but they are rarely used, and they are more for show. Such as, “Do you have a screwdriver?” “Why yes, would you like to see the neat drawer in which I keep them?” There are times when I have been crafty and resourceful, and there are times my husband has been industrious around the house. But we aren’t DIYers much, even though DIY is cool. We aren’t cool like that.

Until now.

It all started about the second week of the social shutdown, when time itself seemed to take a slow train toward the coast and we were left to ourselves. Left to ourselves, our family, our unknown future and our four walls. At first, the walls looked like they always did: picture frames in place and such. Doorways to walk through to the next room. Then, on further inspection, everything looked off. The cabinets and baseboards needed a good, hard scrub. The walls themselves had finger marks on them. The windows (Lord, the windows!) needed cleaning. And once we cleaned the windows, we looked out them and noticed a brown film covering every outside surface.

Enter the power washer.

There is nothing quite as satisfying as power washing a driveway or a patio after the funk of the winter has left a layer of grime only the spring sun can unmask. It takes hours (hours, I tell you!) but when the brown water starts to run to clear, and you see the concrete and the brick under the layer of grime, you feel deeply satisfied. Like a home improvement expert.

That’s when other small projects started to get tackled. Overhead light bulbs were replaced. Chipped paint was painted. An overgrown tree had its lower limbs trimmed, cut up and hauled away. All without me asking.

I thought I had seen it all, when a few hours after the tree incident, I was called into the kitchen. “Prepare to be very surprised,” I was told, and I braced myself. I’m not big on surprises. I walked into the room, and the cabinet doors under the sink were wide open. I looked at my husband, curious if he had organized the cleaning supplies. That would be nice.

“I replaced the garbage disposal,” he said. I died right there. Dead. Seriously, we do not do things that involve modern mechanics. We don’t do plumbing.

“Oh. My. Gosh!” I screamed. “I cannot believe it!” My middle schooler and her friend froze at the front door in fear. “I am so excited!” And just to prove it worked, he turned on the switch and I heard the soft purr of satisfaction that only comes with home improvement. The middle schoolers relaxed.

I know that this stay-at-home order has been horrendous for many. And the health issues and the economic battles will be ongoing long after we attempt to return to some kind of normal. But this season of social distancing has changed us all. It has made us appreciate the small moments. The quiet contentment. The boredom that has led to creativity and brilliance.

My house has a newly installed garbage disposal, and I will count that as a minor modern miracle. Kind of makes me want to pull out my screwdriver and get to work.