5 ways my grandmothers prepared me for a pandemic

I live and love on the far south coast of NSW and am currently physically distanced at home with a husband, four kids under 15 and a cat. We have spent three weeks at home now with minimal contact with the outside world and it is a challenge to my living and loving.

But I am finding that I am drawing on the heritage of my grandmothers to get through this.

They lived much of their life within the walls of their homes …

My grandmothers, Heather and Zeta, both lived through the Great Depression as children and were married with their own children during World War 2. Neither of them ever drove a car. Both of them were practised homemakers and had access to home delivered ice, bread and milk.

They lived much of their life within the walls of their homes and within their backyards where, over the years, they kept vegetable patches and chooks. They ventured out for grocery shopping and church and both of them cared for “lost” people in the community like lonely kids and the vulnerable.

Here are some of the things they did that I am now imitating …

I am not driving a car

We have a van, but I am rarely using it. I venture out to our local town once a week for essential services like the chemist. My town feels eerily quiet. This is a contrast to my usual daily school pick-ups, pop outs and driving. It is refreshing to not be wired for driving, Instead, I take my kids for a compulsory morning walk each day, where I get them to play eye spy with something in nature. This week we spotted nine bird species.

I am making do with meals and supplies

I am thinking often of my grandmothers’ pantries, of Heather’s quinces floating in vacola bottles and Zeta’s homemade tomato sauce. I am also cooking out of my dry goods more – soaking dried lentils and chickpeas, making pizza from scratch and working harder to use tinned foods (though I am unlikely to be converted to Zeta’s love of tinned baby potatoes). I am baking with the kids, though we make biscotti rather than treacle roly-polys. We now look to reuse more items – like cardboard boxes for craft, instead of coloured cardstock. This week I made a skirt by cutting up an old pair of adult jeans and childrens jeans. Heather would be proud of that one.

I am using my backyard

My local supermarket sold out of packets of seeds weeks ago. It seemed to be a case of “apocalyptic shopping”, but I wanted the seeds as a project to engage the kids with. We planted them three weeks ago and I cannot tell you how much joy we get from peering out our lounge room window each morning to see the progress of the seedlings in their pots. Baby pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber and lettuce plants are joyful in their morning new-leaf yawns with little seed shells lopsided on their heads.

I am going to church

My grandmothers ventured out in their husband-chauffeured cars to go to their local church. At the moment, my husband and I chauffeur my kids to the sofa in our lounge room for the most local church we have ever experienced. It is a joy in our week to watch our pastor speak online with a couple of physically distanced helpers who sing, pray and read the bible. Afterwards we pray together via a Zoom meeting and it is a hit of social joy to see these people after a quiet week at home.

I am seeking to care for the lost in my community

It is challenging to think about how to do this at a distance, when I can’t invite people into my home and feed them like my grandmothers did. But I can still seek out those who might be lonely or lost. I can write letters to children in the church and text fellow mummies who are working hard with schooling kids at home. I can email, blog and pray, seeking to encourage those who have encouraged me with their podcast or article or book. I can make a banner to hang near our mailbox with changing messages for our neighbours who drive past.

These simple yet important tips can go beyond being frugal with food and clothes. We can still “Make do and mend” our relationships – even when we are stuck at home.

I will imitate my grandmothers’ wisdom and I will love my neighbours as best I can …

I guess that is what my grandmothers were doing all along too, as they sought (in any and all circumstances) to live out some of the Bible’s most important relational instructions.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second one is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

The second command here is about neighbours. It is important but not as important as the first. God did the ultimate “make do and mend” when He gave his son to save us.

“For God so love the world that He gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not die but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

So, I will imitate my grandmothers’ wisdom and I will love my neighbours as best I can; but this too has an emptiness unless first, I love my God – the one who is in control despite recessions, worldwide enemies and being home bound.

There is no greater comfort than this.

Kirsty Kurilowicz is married to Ariel. They have four children. Kirsty was a “ministry wife” for 19 years, as Ariel worked in Anglican ministry in Melbourne and pastoral church ministry in Sydney. They are currently active members of Grace Church, Bega.