Coronavirus chronicles: So . . . this is isolation?

The Waller Farm, 1917.

Growing up on the farm, we were two miles from town. The main road was dirt until I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. It was an event to look beyond the large front pasture, “the big field,” and see a car go by.

We had neighbors to the west, not visible from our home, but we knew they were out there because we sat with their kids on the school bus.

We were a large, multigenerational family. Mom, Dad, six kids, a Grannie and an Uncle Fred. “Company” was another farmer stopping by to help out or needing a hand himself.

Going to Oak Bluffs on Sunday to visit grandparents was a trip!

“Social distancing” happened after 3 pm each weekday when you stepped off of the school bus and headed down the long, shell driveway to home.

Home was our world.

Our animals, our books, our toys, our rooms, the hay loft, the kitchen table, the abandoned chicken coop, a newborn calf, the horse drawn plow, Grannie’s blackberry roly poly, and Mom’s kale soup.

Over a hundred wide open acres of varied grasses, black-eyed Susans, ox-eyed daisies, butterflies, grasshoppers, crops, and running.

Endless hours of running.

On rainy days and on the frigid, snowy days of January, the large black coal stove in the center of the living room hosted gatherings of puzzles, books, card games, erector sets, board games, paper, crayons, scissors, and paste made from flour and water.

And, word games — “20 questions,” “Who Said?” and “I am.”

No plumbing and no electricity spawned lively imaginations, poetry readings, blanket forts, and conversation. Lots of conversation:

“Did Grampa ever talk about when he was a soldier in the Civil War?”

“Grannie, what was it like living in a log cabin?”

“VoVo, tell us about leaving your family to come to America.”

“What was it like to work in the big textile mills in New Bedford?”

And, “What did you do when little William died?”

We had each other. We were the world.

Life was good.



  1. I understand the message of looking back with rose-colored glasses and comparing it to “isolation” today, but the problem with trying to pretend that the “good old days” were actually good, or that they had a positive effect on who we are as adults, is that the realities of what shaped us become harshly apparent by merely looking at the present, including by having a quick peek at someone’s public Facebook page… what they want us to know about them. Racial, ethnic, religious, and intolerant, societal hatreds do not arise out of the blue, nor from an idyllic childhood.

      • Yes, I am positive I will always speak out against those who use social media to promote racism, xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia and misogyny. Happy now?

        • It is becoming painfully obvious, even to your fellow travelers, that everything you post is driven by your hatred for the President.

          • Hanley, funny that you immediately connect Trump to my comment about those who use social media to promote racism and all the other ‘ism’s. Why would you think that if it wasn’t true? You said it, I didn’t! I was not talking about Trump, but I agree with you that he (ab)uses social media in this way.

  2. I have to agree with fielding’s comment Jackie. (and you’ll most likely reply) If you couldn’t say something good about someone’s life reflection,…..well,, just don’t say anything. Btw.. I agree with you 100% about facebook!!

  3. Sorry, I don’t see you as positive.
    There is absolutely nothing in this article about racism, xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia, or misogyny.
    Had there been, then your rant against Facebook and the ills of society would have been warranted.
    Not what I would call a positive response to a short article about growing up on the island a couple generations ago. Do you honestly think your response was positive?

  4. jackie– sometimes you have to look at the comment and respond to it. Ms Morgan may very well have some points of view that you think are offensive and don’t agree with You can encourage us to check her out on her public face book page, but I for one disagree with this kind of public shaming and personal attack.
    Ms Morgan wrote a heart felt public letter that I thought was pretty relevant.
    She said nothing offensive.
    I am personally disappointed in your response that focuses on her political opinions that have nothing to do with the article she wrote.
    I think she deserves an apology from you on this one.

    • Don, my earlier reply didn’t make it, so I will try again. In our topsy-turvy world where someone like Rush Limbaugh can be awarded the Medal of Freedom, I would rather feel the sting of discomfort by saying something here that disappoints someone I respect, you, than keep silent about the relevance of what connects us to our past and therefore to our present and our future. What we tell others about how we came to be who we are is one thing– what we tell ourselves is what really counts in the end. I cannot be sorry for speaking what is true.

  5. Allouise, lovely, just lovely. I grew up in the mid West, pretty much as you describe. That was what life was like then. I found your narrative so comforting and having just had a favorite sibling pass and not being able to attend any bedside, or service, your lovely writing brought some peace to me. I thank you kindly.

  6. Allouise’s younger sister Dorothy was my classmate and friend and I spent many hours at the Waller farm, back in the days when you could look out the kitchen window and there was not a tree or a bush or a house in sight. All there was was wind coming off of Edgartown Great plains and the sound of the ocean. In the winter there wasn’t even a light to be seen from those windows. In those days Mary Waller and her mother, who we only knew as Vavoa, put on a Sunday dinner that was attended by everybody in town. The door was open and the table was open to everyone. Herring Creek road would be lined with fire trucks and police cars and there was a revolving door of citizenry seated at the main table, with an extra table of course for desserts. There were two ovens in the kitchen, one with roast beef and one with turkey and the table was laden with all of the fixings. Vavoa, who drove down from Oak Bluffs every Sunday, was in charge of the dessert table, always overflowing with homemade sweets. I don’t remember seeing Mary Waller sitting down at any of those meals, only serving and making sure everybody was well-fed. In our teenage years oh, the Waller farm was a popular hangout for all of the friends of the Waller kids, whether it was learning how to drive on the open fields, or riding any of the horses that were on hand, or hanging out in the kitchen playing cribbage. I’m too young to remember Alouise’s early memories of the farm, but I do know she has a collection of photographs & memories that, combined with her writing skills, should be published.

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