Quiet Desperation

Going forward and looking back

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It won’t be long before we’ll start to see trees strapped to cars and colored lights outlining houses; maybe a few front lawn inflatables; countless advertisements; and familiar holiday songs.

But it won’t be the same or even close.

The projections — if you believe in science — are grim: as bad as the Spanish flu numbers, by the fall of 2021.

The fall of 2021?

Have you, like me, looked back? At first the virus seemed disconcerting; then it became pernicious and deadly.

One thing after another was canceled or rescheduled.

We were ordered to stay at home, asked to wear masks.

Some adamantly refused and still do.

Large gatherings were discouraged and then prohibited.

But “What, me worry?”

Thousands of Notre Dame students filled the field after the football team upset Clemson.

Weddings have gone on. Parties. Religious services.

Some businesses have suffered irreparable losses.

Care to go on a cruise?

Amid all of this, traditionalists will nevertheless observe and celebrate as always in the weeks ahead.

Undoubtedly, there will be some adjustments and compromises.

My own plans are next to none. But for years, I made travel agent (remember?) arrangements to fly into Traverse City, Michigan, and spend a week under cloudy skies.

That part is not missed, but the irreplaceable opportunities to be around our little family is missed.

Home-cooked meals, bowl games and the constant drone of judgment.

“Don’t you own a comb, Craig?”

And along with all of the festivities, I’ll miss their unusual neighborhood.

Ready?

My father and mother lived across the street from five houses of different colors, each occupied by man of a different nationality.

Every man had his favorite drink, his favorite brand of cigarettes and kept a particular kind of pet.

An Englishman lived in the red house.

The Swede kept dogs.

The Dane drank tea.

The green house was just to the left of the white one.

The owner of the green house drank coffee.

The Pall Mall smoker kept birds.

The owner of the yellow house smoked Dunhill.

The man in the center house drank milk.

The Norwegian lived in the first house.

The Camel smoker had a neighbor who kept cats.

The man who smoked Marlboro drank beer.

The man who kept horses lived next to the Dunhill smoker.

The German smoked Lucky Strike.

The Norwegian lived next to the blue house.

The Camel smoker had a neighbor who drank water.

Now: Which of the men kept fish?

Perhaps that will keep you or your children or grandchildren busy for a while. But it comes with a warning: 98% are incapable of solving it.

If that one is too daunting, try this: What is more useful when it is broken?

How many times can you subtract 5 from 25?

What, if anything, is wrong with this famous Groucho Marx comment?

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas.”

Finally, rearrange “saving knight” and put the word “happy” in front of it; from Harry and me.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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