My years of reading as if I were living 100 years ago haven’t turned me into much of a nostalgist. In general, whatever is awful in the early 21st century was even worse in the early 20th century. Back then, the United States was a racist, sexist, war-scarred country. The white supremacist violence of the Red Summer of 1919 was far worse than what we’re experiencing now. We lost half a million more lives to the Spanish influenza than we’ve lost so far to COVID, among a population a third the size of today’s.
Not that I’m minimizing what we’re going through now. We’re supposed to be better than our predecessors, and the fact that we can even draw parallels between that terrible time and our own shows that we haven’t done a very good job of learning lessons from the past.
Still, as this awful summer crawls to an end, I’m starting to feel like I wouldn’t mind spending some time in 1920.
Women have the vote!
Corsets are going out of fashion!
The pandemic is over, and people are free to go places and do things!
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? The perfect destination for an imaginary vacation. You can come too!
A house at the seaside is just the thing, wouldn’t you agree?
We’ll pack our clothes,
making sure not to forget to bring along our white shoes,
or our maid, whose greatest joy in life is cleaning them.
We’ll round up the kids,
but not the scary-looking ones,
and set out overland in the Overland.
Whew! That was quite a journey.
I need to freshen up.
I brush my hair,*
sprinkle on a little talcum powder,**
dab on some Odorono,
and I’m all set to go.
Of course we brought along the Grafonola.
Or the Victrola. Whatever! It’s party time!
We’ll go swimming
and play games
and watch fireworks
and go on picnics
and Sunday drives.
If it gets too hot, we’ll just loll around in fetching outfits.
The fresh air will do the children a world of good
and maybe wean them off their weird obsession with bread.
And of course it wouldn’t be summer without some romance.
Enjoy it while you can! All too soon we’ll be cleaning up the summer house
(just kidding, that’s the maid’s job),
heading back home,
and sending the kids off to school.
But it’s nice to get away for a while, isn’t it?
*I try to keep this a family blog, but oh 1920, you test me sometimes.
**A very little, since it’s full of asbestos.