The silver lining

Positive graffiti adorns the protective plywood at our 97 Newbury Street building.

We are well into our fourth month of isolation here in Boston in order to fight back against the Covid-19 virus. During this time, I think it’s fair to say people have been experiencing many emotions, most of them negative—fear, grief, hopelessness, anxiety, doubt, outrage, exhaustion, anger, sadness, stress, loneliness… I have felt these things myself, but there have been several instances when I was reminded that, even in extremely difficult situations, there can be moments of positivity.

The first person I heard use the term “silver lining” was my boss, Executive Vice President and COO Ryan Woods, someone I consider a wise and level-headed person. He said that, although the pandemic forced him to be at home while doing the difficult job of navigating our organization through an unprecedented crisis, he was happy to be able to spend so much time with his wife, young child, and new baby—an opportunity that he never would have had otherwise.

My constant companions

As many of you are aware, American Ancestors runs “Getaway” and “Come Home to New England” events several times a year where fellow genealogists come to Boston to consult with our experts, use materials in our library, and benefit from one another’s experiences in doing genealogical research. Of course, due to the public health emergency, travel has not been possible. Our Education team has instead created an alternate way of keeping these events going. Attendees gather via Zoom to participate in discussions, attend lectures, and have individual consultations with NEHGS scholars. Last week Director of Education and Online Programs Ginevra Morse reported that one attendee was someone she had not seen for several years—a woman who had become unable to travel but who was able to attend the June event remotely. To see her face on the Zoom call was certainly a silver lining!

Our hens’ eggs with Jo Anne Makely’s stone egg.

I have found that time spent cooking, working outside, and doing puzzles with my 23-year-old daughter has brought us closer together. She had been all set to embark on a trip to the 48 contiguous states with her dog when the virus spiraled out of control. She decided to stay put for now, finding a full-time job and deferring her dream to a later date. We have a 15-year-old family dog (that’s 102 in human years for a dog his size). It has been a blessing to be able to be home all day with him at the end of his life—to observe how he’s doing and offer assistance if he needs it, rather than leave him cooped up in a crate while we’re at work. Our neighborhood has had many new young families move in over the last few years, and we had no idea who they were. Now we take multiple walks each day, stopping to chat with them and delivering fresh eggs from our hens. We trade puzzles and books and share our hopes and fears… We are truly a community now.

The author and her daughter

Granted, there are challenges to such a state of “extreme togetherness,” like juggling babies on your lap during meetings and asking toddlers to please keep their imaginary airplane engines quiet while you’re on the phone. I’ve attended online meetings with birds chirping in the background, cats walking across colleagues’ desks, and kids coming into the camera’s view and laughing because my cheap microphone is making me sound “like a chipmunk.”

But these are things that we can, I hope, smile about—because we can all relate. We are one big human family and our most important task is to take care of each other. We will survive because we can adapt and see the silver lining.

And come see some old friends at our next Virtual Research Program!

Sharon Inglis

About Sharon Inglis

In nearly 30 years in the educational publishing industry, Sharon developed and directed the production of French, Spanish, Italian, German, social studies, science, and math textbook programs for secondary school and higher education. She is very happy to be at NEHGS and applying her editorial and project management skills to Newbury Street Press publications, theMayflower Descendant journal, and whatever else comes her way!

8 thoughts on “The silver lining

  1. I am finding the Covid experience to be quite relaxing and so have been able to focus on sorting family photos, writing, reading, calling people I may not have had time to reach previously, and crafting cards. I could be cleaning and gardening as well. I don’t waste as much time wandering in stores as I had done previously. Sure I miss some things but this too shall pass.

  2. I try to as well, Helen. The continued huge numbers of deaths is sobering. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones, who have had to watch from afar as their friend or family member struggled to recover from the virus alone, or who have lived in fear of a front-line worker they care about catching it.

  3. I’m full bore on project no. 1 (not counting the 1969 talk I had with my grandmother about her branch of her paternal family, “time” on this revision of a revision is up to 43 years). Then there’s project no. 2 (found the “smoking gun” document online two weeks ago, and its been in print since the late 1840s! Interlibrary loan has got to open up). Then there’s project no. 3 (my dad’s Bridgeport CT family out of various parts of Ireland). Then there’s project 4 (no, Lucy was not a step-daughter). Then there’s….

    Really, what’s a pandemic to a history/genealogy researcher with all this Great STUFF online now? So long as I go outside less and then masked and gloved as much as possible given age and underlying conditions, I’m fine. Trust you all are too.

    Can’t top having fresh egges daily. My patio tomatoes plants are just showing green little roundish things. Kitchen gets cleaned a bit more. Now back to the 19th century.

    1. We at NEHGS are all working hard, as you are, on various projects. Thank goodness for the internet!

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