The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
While we were all cooped up this past year I, often accompanied by my husband and some of our friends, were fortunate to have been able to travel through space and time and experience many wonderful adventures without either a passport or a plane ticket.
For instance, we went along with a group of nuns who nursed the invalids in the slums of Brooklyn in the 1920s, and they acted as surrogate mothers to Sally, a young girl whose father committed suicide and whose mother worked in the laundry at the convent.
We traveled with Sally on the train from Brooklyn to Chicago and met some of the characters who traveled the rails at the time.
We met the eccentric Winston Churchill and learned how he courageously and brilliantly managed the Second World War and kept his people from despair during the blitz. He never gave up hope in his belief that Roosevelt would eventually get the Americans involved, nor did he ever fail to try to persuade him of the absolute need for America’s help in defeating Hitler.
We met Churchill’s family too — his wife Clemmie, his alcoholic son, Randolph and especially his youngest daughter Mary.
We traveled to Afghanistan with a Navy Seal and his remarkable military dog, Cairo, and vicariously experienced the intense training of both the dog and the Seals. I literally held my breath when assigned the task of sitting at the deep end of the pool with hands and legs bound. In addition, we witnessed Cairo and his master participate in the mission to capture Osama bin Laden.
We followed Cora, an escaped slave from a Georgia plantation in the pre-Civil War era as she tried to survive in the North, constantly fearing she would be captured and returned to her cruel slave master. But she found the Underground Railroad and spent time on a farm in Indiana with other escaped slaves until their farm was raided and burned and she again had to flee.
We went to China in search of a woman who had been forced by the immigration authorities to flee her New York home, leaving behind her 11-year-old son, Deming Guo, who was eventually adopted by a white suburban couple. That young boy, like many immigrants and/or adoptees had to establish a sense of identity and a sense of belonging — something I’ve always taken for granted.
We went into the caissons below the Hudson River and became immersed in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge during the mid-1860s. Along the way we met some suffragettes, but we became intimately familiar with and in awe of Emily Roebling, the woman responsible for its construction.
These are but a few of the adventures we have had this past year, and we never left our easy chairs. But in so doing, we learned how other humans have endured tragedies and hardships beyond anything we have endured. I realized that being isolated in my comfortable home with internet, cell phones, running water, cable TV and good neighbors close by is not worth complaining about.
And my life was enriched by knowing that other humans have endured far more difficult experiences than being isolated during a pandemic and because I, too, am human, I conjured up hope that maybe if necessary, I, too, could find some inner and previously unknown courage and cope with future challenges yet unknown.
Sharon Olbert is a former college writing instructor, a free-lance writer and a member and founder of two book groups.