Yesterday was December 21, 2012. The Mayan calendar ended, but the world did not.
You probably don’t remember other “doomsday warnings,” but I do. Especially my first one in 1957.
That year one of our neighbors built a fallout shelter. He also called it a bomb shelter; either way, it was his survival guarantee. In school, we practiced hiding under our desks or crouching in the hall away from windows. That was our guarantee.
Our neighbor was a successful but harsh and stingy old man (I won’t say his name because I don’t want to hurt the feelings of his children and grandchildren, in case they didn’t know this about him.) We’ll call him “Bob,” with apologies to the kind and generous Bobs in the world. Anyway, Bob made it clear that he had a shotgun, and when the worst happened and everyone panicked and wanted to hide in his bomb shelter, the rumor was that Bob would shoot them.
I asked you if we should dig our own shelter and stock it with food and water and everything on the list. You said no. “If there is a massive bomb, Marylin,” you said, “and you and David are at school and Daddy is at work, we won’t be together. So if I hid in our shelter, then when it was all over and I came out, you all wouldn’t be with me.”
I remember you laughed and winked at me. “And if I came out of my shelter and Bob came out of his, and we were the only two who survived, well, I’d have to borrow his gun and shoot myself.” This made me laugh, too, and the spell of doom was broken.
In 1956, Jay Livingston and Ray Evans wrote the lyrics and music for a song called “Que Sera Sera” (Whatever will be, will be.) Doris Day sang it in Alfred Hitchcock’s THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, and whenever it came on the radio I danced around to it, singing with Doris. Later I learned “Que Sera Sera” is something to say when you’re stuck in a hopelessly unchangeable situation, but you’ve come to accept it. It’s similar to today’s “It is what it is.”
We live in a troubled world, you used to say, but it’s always been troubled and dangerous, and we live by prayer, faith, and gratitude. Your final message after our bomb shelter conversation was this: “When things get bad, you hold tight to the hands of those you love, and you get through it.” I asked, “But what if we can’t find each other to hold hands?” and you said, “We’re always in each other’s hearts, honey. Always.”
“Que Sera Sera” is more than a song. It’s also your philosophy about life; you always did the best you could in every situation, but beyond that you waited: What will be, will be. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me that the best we can do in tough times–and always–is to pray, hold the hands and cherish the hearts of those we love, and be grateful.