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Our Pandemic Year: A mother’s indomitable spirit

  • Photograph courtesy of Diane Kemble

Published: 3/3/2021 8:56:32 PM
Modified: 3/3/2021 8:56:29 PM

Editor’s note: In anticipation of the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic’s arrival in the Upper Valley, we asked Valley News readers to reflect on the last 12 months.


I kept hearing the word “resilient” and thought about how perfectly that word describes my mother, born in 1911. I decided to make a handmade book about her life, My Resilient Mother.

I made paste papers in a springy pattern, a way of showing resilience as colorful and lively. I worked on the writing a little at a time and selected photographs that set up like a little display in this accordion book, one of my favorite book forms. As I was writing, I kept thinking of all of her sayings, such as “Don’t wish your life away.”

I’m a retired teacher, and making books with my students was one of my favorite ways to have them show ideas and share information through art and writing. I do worry about the disruption to education during the pandemic.

This pandemic year has felt like a kind of retreat, with its limitations and also quiet possibilities. I’m grateful for Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s leadership, the strength of our community, and all of the ways people have used their imaginations and generosity to help each other.

I’ll display my book in the upcoming Open Wall show, Resilience, at Gallery at the Vault in Springfield, Vt.

Diane Kemble lives in Springfield, Vt.

‘I have been blessed’


I was born on March 2, 1919, during the flu pandemic of 1918-1920. And I have a great-grandson, born in November 2020, so he and I have a pandemic in common.

COVID-19 changed my life because I cannot have family and friends in for coffee. My family drives to bring me goodies and groceries, and I meet them at the kitchen doorstep, everyone wearing masks.

Can they come in? No.

I’m “at home” and have lived alone for 34 years. Every day I walk out to pick up the Valley News and the mail at the boxes, do daily chores, and tend to 28 houseplants. I fill bird feeders and bake bread. This past year I was busy sewing a dozen twin-size quilts for grandchildren using pinwheel blocks in different colors. The North Haverhill librarian brings me books, and I can Zoom the church Sunday services. I voted absentee in November.

I got my first COVID-19 vaccine shot in Concord at the Sears garage! Yay! The vaccine computer only registered for someone up to age 100 (born in 1921), but when I went to get the shot, the National Guard guy told me that he’d fixed the computer so it will reflect my real age. I turned 102 on Tuesday.

I’m hoping for a family reunion on the Fourth of July — to give out hugs! I have been blessed.

Evelyn Brown lives in North Haverhill.

‘Suddenly, the pandemic was real’


On a Friday in mid-March last year, I was running errands in West Lebanon when I received a phone call from our daughter-in-law. She told me that if I wanted to see our granddaughters in the Woodstock High School musical, scheduled for that weekend, I should come home right then because there would be one show only and it was going to begin immediately.

Suddenly, the pandemic was real and our new lives began.

I have to say that our governor has done an excellent job trying to keep us safe. Although I’m not able to see friends or relatives and cannot hug anyone except my husband, I am grateful for FaceTime, Zoom and online games to play with our extended family.

The Thompson Senior Center in Woodstock, the Norman Williams Public Library and the Woodstock History Center have sponsored many webinars and Zoom classes. Vermont Humanities First Wednesday lectures are now available online; this means that a lecture I would not have attended in Brattleboro, say, or Burlington, can now be attended on my computer right at home.

The music director at our church makes possible her singing a duet with a member who moved to Washington state! As they sing, beautiful images of nature appear on the screen.

The choir rehearses online on Wednesday nights, as usual, and they can sing as a group for Sunday services. Services are posted on the town’s online discussion board so that I can watch and listen to them whenever I want — still in pajamas, if I wish.

Fortunately, I live in a beautiful log home whose great room windows let in the bountiful winter sunshine most days. I am having a long-term recovery from a complicated hip replacement, so I don’t even have to think about the cold outside. No complaints here!

Sherry Taylor Belisle lives in Woodstock.

‘Wish us good fortune!’


The request to share memories of the restrictions from COVID-19 reminds me that my longtime friend of Barre, Vt., George Plumb, and I share birthdays. It will be my 98th this year. On March 10 we plan to meet for lunch. Our meeting last year failed because of the virus.

Now, we shall have both been vaccinated. But climate change induced by global warming holds the power to disrupt our best-laid plans. Were we to fail again, George will do his hobby, woodworking, and I’ll pick up my squeegee to clean dirty windows.

Readers, wish us good fortune!

Linn Duvall Harwell lives in Perkinsville.

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