I posted here that my cousin doesn’t like the term “New Normal” and she and her co-workers prefer the term “Temporary Weirdness.”
Yesterday, I listened to the most recent episode of the podcast “American Hauntings” hosted by Troy Taylor and Cody Beck. Taylor and Beck constantly referred to the days before Covid-19 as the “Before Times.”
So, IRREGARDLESS of whether I use the term “Before Times” or “Tempoary Weirdness” the thing is that I think about the days before Covid-19 A LOT.
So, here’s a story about my life before Covid-19.
My favorite book when I was 12 or 13 years old was Gone with the Wind.
Up until that time and even after that time, I still read the Babysitters Club and Nancy Drew books. (And also Little House on the Prairie.) However, when I was 12 years old, I watched the North and South miniseries on television, based on the book trilogy of the same name by John Jakes. I loved it. Someone suggested that I would like Gone with the Wind. I checked Gone with the Wind out of my school library. I was only in the seventh grade, but at my school grades 7 – 12 all shared one building and we shared one library.
So, I read Gone with the Wind cover to cover when I was 12 or 13. I didn’t even skip to the end and read that first, as I used to do (and still do sometimes). This was the very first “grown up” book that I read the entire way through. It was over 1000 pages long.
I loved Gone with the Wind so much that I asked my mom to buy me my very own copy of the book for Christmas. She did!
Then, I re-read my favorite sections.
Gone with the Wind was one of MY Harry Potters. (My other Harry Potter was The Babysitters Club.)
I outgrew Gone with the Wind a very long time ago.
Now, just to be clear, I’m talking about Gone with the Wind the novel by Margaret Mitchell. I’m NOT talking about the novel’s famous movie adaptation.
Here’s something that happened in the second half of Gone with the Wind the novel:
During the year 1866 or 1867 or something, Scarlett O’Hara married her second husband (Rhett Butler is husband #3). She took over the accounting / bookkeeping of her husband’s Atlanta sawmill because she was really good at numbers. All of the respectable white people in town disapproved. She did it anyway. One day, she travelled from her husband’s sawmill back to her house. Two big black men (newly freed enslaved men who live in the town slum) attacked her and tried to rip off her dress. Her husband rounded up all of the other respectable white men in town and they went and had a Klu Klux Klan raid on the black people who lived in the town slum. Husband #2 got killed in the process.
Yes, this is something that happened in the novel Gone with the Wind. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937.
I guess that I ignored this part of the book when I was a teenager. I don’t remember.
What I do remember was that I completely fell for the “Lost Cause” narrative as Gone with the Wind (the novel) represented it. I disagreed with my high school history teacher about the actual evils of slavery. I actually did this. My history teacher had a PhD.
I read at least one biography about the author, Margaret Mitchell. I also watched the made-for-television movie about her life. Shannon Dougherty of Beverly Hills 90210 starred in this movie. Based entire on this one biography and this one movie, I personally think that Margaret Mitchell suffered from trauma over losing her fiance in World War I, losing her mother in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, and then suffering domestic violence in a very brief first marriage. This is my personal opinion. I personally believe that Gone with the Wind reflected Mitchell’s trauma over these events.
By the time that I was out of college and married, I was completely over Gone with the Wind. Then one day, my husband Jonathan got sent to Atlanta on a business trip. I tagged along with him.
By complete coincidence, our hotel was on the opposite site of the exact same block as the house where Mitchell lived when she wrote Gone with the Wind. The Federal Reserve was on this same block. Neither my husband nor I chose this hotel ahead of time. Somebody else at my husband’s place of employment chose the hotel. I never met this person, and this person had no idea that I used to like the novel Gone with the Wind.
The house where Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind was actually a downtown Atlanta apartment building. Mitchell lived in one of the apartments with her second husband (John Marsh) when she wrote the book. I read something once that suggested that Gone with the Wind was actually a team effort. Mitchell once wrote for an Atlanta newspaper, and Marsh was her former editor. Anyway, years later a group purchased the apartment building with the intention of turning it into a museum about Mitchell and Gone with the Wind. Shortly after the museum was set to open, most of it burned down in an arson. The group rebuilt the thing. They opened this building as “The Margaret Mitchell House.”
So, yeah, I visited the Margaret Mitchell House that one time when I went to Atlanta. I got to spend an entire week sleeping on the same block as the Margaret Mitchell House. It felt really weird, though. I had loved that book for so long. Then, by the time that I got to see where it was written, I didn’t actually think much of the book.
In fact, the docent who led me around the Margaret Mitchell House opened the tour by telling me about how much she personally loved Gone with the Wind. (I guess that you have to love Gone with the Wind in order to give tours around the apartment where either Mitchell or Marsh wrote it. I was under the impression that the docents were all volunteers.)
Then she said to me, “What do you think of the book?”
I said, “This used to be my favorite book. Now it isn’t.”
The tour was kinda awkward after this. Oh, well.
During this same trip, I rode the MARTA (the commuter train) and walked a bunch in order to visit the Joel Chandler Harris House (also called “The Wren’s Nest”). I did this because Harris wrote the Uncle Remus stories that my Grandma Gaffron read to me.
So, on my one trip to Atlanta, I toured the homes of problematic authors.
Also, my husband and I ate in a downtown Atlanta restaurant where we eavesdropped on the business meeting happening at the table next to ours. It was clearly a business meeting. All of the participants were wearing business attire. Also, I’ve sat in enough business meetings myself that I enjoy watching the pain of other people who are trapped in business meetings. The one man in this meeting told the other participants that when he was a kid, he raised a goat on his dad’s farm. Then his dad had the goat served as dinner one night. I think that someone at that table had ordered goat meat for lunch.
I miss sitting close enough to strangers to hear their entire conversations. I miss eating in restaurants. I miss visiting the museum homes of problematic authors. I can’t wait until the “Temporary Weirdness” ends.