October 22 - Halloween and Masks

Close up of pumpkin carved for jack o'lanter, with dragon face and candle lighting it form inside

The days are growing shorter and nights longer as we move to the end of this tumultuous year. In years before this, children would be selecting a costume and preparing for trick or treating and possibly attending Halloween parties. Adults might also have picked out a costume in order to attend Halloween celebrations while pretending to be something else. Many were anticipating this Halloween because it falls on a Saturday and a full moon is supposed to rise in the sky to add to the haunting effect.

Full moon in night sky with reddish color on one side of it

Instead, children are wearing masks to protect themselves while adults are pretending that they are staying calm during these stressful times. Not the pretend game that I think anyone really wants to play. People are getting creative, coming up with workarounds in order to keep some of the spirit of the holiday, but it can feel like yet another strike of the year, another reminder that normal is only a setting on the dryer instead of how we live our lives.

Person dressed as Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, standing on lawn holding croquet mallet

The days seem like an eternity, with no easy prospect of returning to activities that we love. However, we are the descendants of the survivors of the 1918 flu who had their own challenges and problems. I am including some quotes from a a 15 year old girl’s diary from that time so long ago. Her name was Violet Harris and she lived in Seattle at the time. Oddly enough, the entries were written over 100 years ago at this time of year. She made it through and lived until 1954. A reminder that we can make it through these rough times until we can celebrate again.

On Oct. 5. 1918 “It was announced in the papers tonight that all churches, shows and schools would be closed until further notice, to prevent Spanish influenza from spreading. Good idea? I’ll say it is! So will every other school kid, I calculate. … The only cloud in my sky is that the (School) Board will add the missed days on to the end of the term.”
On Oct. 18, 1918 “She(neighbor) said Rena was sick and could hardly walk. I walked on a bit further when I met Mr. B. (Rena’s father) dressed in his best. He said Mrs. B and Rena were sick. That it was the flu and I’d better not go in. I didn’t. …
On October 27, 1918  “Rena called me up. She is well now …. I asked her what it felt like to have the influenza, and she said, ‘Don’t get it.’”
Oct. 31, 1918: “I stayed in all day and didn’t even go to Rena’s. The flu seems to be spreading, and Mama doesn’t want us to go around more than we need to.”
Nov. 12, 1918: “The ban was lifted to-day. No more .... masks. Everything open too. 'The Romance of Tarzan' is on at the Coliseum (movie theater) as it was about 6 weeks ago. I’d like to see it awfully. .... School opens this week — Thursday! Did you ever? As if they couldn’t have waited till Monday!”

Diary entries pulled from USA Today, “Before Coronavirus, Seattle was under siege by the deadliest flu in history. Here’s what life was like.” By Elizabeth Weise, 3/7/2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/03/07/coronavirus-seattl...