Once upon a time I had two little boys trapped in the house with me for many weeks due to winter storms and sickness. To fill our days we read many, many stories about pirates and presidents. We worked on homework brought directly to our front door by their teachers. We could see them coming down our walkway a little before dinner each day.

“Don’t answer the door,” one little blond boy said.

“Drop, roll and shut the lights,” the other said.

After the third week of confinement I was close to busting a vein. There are only so many cookies you can bake, so many instructive lessons you can teach, so many toothpicks you can poke into spicy gumdrops to build a 4-foot tower not at all resembling the Eiffel Tower but maybe the Leaning Tower of Pisa if you held your head just so.

It was during an especially long afternoon that I decided to lock myself in the bathroom for a few precious minutes alone. With eyes closed, a cool cloth on my head, knees bent, I breathed slowly in and out in and out.

Suddenly I could hear the rustling of the two little creatures at the bathroom door. There was shoving. There were giggles and a few elbow pokes.

“Oh no,” I said to myself.

I wanted to scream.

Then there was a tap at the door.

“Knock knock,” one of the voices said in a singsong way.

“What?” I said in a not-so-singsong manner.

There was a pause.

“Knock knock,” a tiny voice said a little louder.

I breathed deep.

“Knock, knock!” said the two little boys, filled with more pep than in past weeks.

“Who’s there?” I said in not the most patient of motherly voices.

“Grandma,” they said.

“Grandma who?” I replied.

“Knock, knock,” they continued.

“Who’s there,” I said, annoyed.

“Aunt,” the boys giddily replied.

“Aunt who?”

“Aunt you glad grandma’s gone?”

How funny! I opened the door, and we all laughed and laughed. Laughter that erased the struggles we had gone through, erased the testy moments and discomfort.

Today I am struggling and fearful. You are too. But we need to keep going. The inability to find ample rolls of toilet paper is the least of our troubles.

Today a friend of mine in her 70s said, “No matter what happens I will not complain. No matter what I will stay positive.” Here, here.

I wanted to hug her, but you know I couldn’t. So instead I put my hand to my heart and gave it a flutter.

Say kind things to those around you. They are struggling. As you are. As others are.

Stay informed and stay busy. Today I began sewing vintage buttons onto a jacket. How goofy is that?

I have collected hundreds of vintage buttons because my great-grandmother once had a button jar. I remember sitting beside her sorting through her buttons while she sewed. Sewing is not my thing, but since I’ve tidied the house and read the news and made some flapjacks and strung some pepita peppers (that were starting to wither in my crisper drawer) with a needle and string and hung them decoratively with a bundle of herbs from last summers garden in my kitchen, I thought, “Why not take out those jars of buttons and do something with them?”

Today I began sewing the two-hole and four-hole, yellow and blue, bone and mother of pearl buttons onto my old denim jacket. At the end of a couple of months it will be absolutely breathetaking.

“Where did you get that jacket?” people will ask me, rubbing my arm, nice and close, not 6 feet away because all will be well.

The act of sewing buttons onto an old jacket reminds me of my great-grandmother’s stories of all her struggles and sacrifice.

“As a teenager I entered the 10th ring of hell,” she once told me. “Struggle, fear, loss and pain. When I arrived to this country I was no longer the person I once was. I was stronger, tougher. Full of life and love.

“You must stay that way too. No matter what life brings you.”

OK, Great-grandma. Head up, shoulders back. Stay strong, find joy.

Why, just today I saw an old cowboy, walking down a trail with his new dog, which was no cowdog by any stretch of the imagination.

“Oh my goodness,” I said. “You’ve got a dachshund. How’d you end up with such an uncowboy-like dog?”

The cowboy answered: “Well, everybody was always telling me, ‘Git along little doggie,’ so I did.”

Pleasure, pain, a little laughter. We’ll get through this.

Doreen Tome has never been much of a jokester. Fortunately she has friends who are. Contact her via columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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