They say, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
Actually, “they” is the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who first uttered the phrase. But in my mind, I always hear it in Olympia Dukakis’s carefully crafted Southern drawl as her character Clairee delivered that classic line in the movie “Steel Magnolias.”
I’ve heard Clairee’s voice a lot in 2020. Because death — in many forms — has unfortunately been top of mind for all of us this year.
Obviously, a pandemic has literally taken over the globe. COVID-19 has certainly put the global in global pandemic.
It was (and is) a crazy thing to have to comprehend, to say the least.
We first had to worry if this virus would kill us or those close to us. Especially our parents and/or grandparents, who are among the most vulnerable. And there have been many who have lost their lives and many more who have had to bury the ones they love.
On that front, I guess I am lucky in a strange way. I was raised by a single mother who died long before this pandemic, and my grandparents all died long before this as well.
I have watched friends grapple with a dilemma: Is it more important to spend time with their 80-something-year-old parents or grandparents who could die of natural causes at any time and perhaps not see them again? Or try and avoid them entirely to protect them from potential COVID exposure? I’ve felt some relief I didn’t have to make that choice or have those conversations, but then I felt immense grief I didn’t have to make that choice or have those conversations.
If my mother — who suffered from a chronic illness much of her adult life — would have lived to see this and more importantly her grandchildren, I know she would have said, “I don’t care if I die, I want to see my grandbabies.”
What a horrific situation to be in. But, damn, I wish she was here for me to say, “Nope, we will FaceTime you tonight, Mom.”
Next, we had to wrestle with the death of life as we once knew it.
It’s strange how in just a few short months seeing everyone in masks went from seeming like the most dystopian thing ever to no big deal — or even stranger NOT to see someone wearing one. It was so odd not to hug someone at first and now we try to not even get within six feet. I wonder if we ever will again? And now, watching television, when you see an interview, you can tell if it was filmed pre-COVID or post-COVID. Such a seismic shift in such a short period of time.
And then many of us had to contemplate the death of our careers or businesses, everything we had worked for our entire lives, as shutdowns (governmental or self-imposed) killed livelihoods. Some have come back, some haven’t yet and some never will.
And if a pandemic wasn’t enough, some parents were reminded of the fear they have every time their child walks out the door after witnessing the death of George Floyd. For others, we have been re-evaluating what life is like outside of our own bubbles — what is wrong and what is right, and what we could do to help.
And some responses to this seem beautiful and some seem insane, and it’s all so confusing and hard. But we are trying.
That’s a lot of really heavy stuff to process from March to August.
This issue of Lagniappe is not supposed to be confusing or heavy or hard. In fact, it’s supposed to be the lightest and silliest, and contain the most frivolity of any of the 52 issues we put out each year. It’s our Readers’ Choice Awards, affectionately known as the Nappies, and I think it is just that — silly and fun. Check out the interview with Mobile’s Most Adorable Dog and you will see.
But as I was editing all of the profiles of our winners for this issue and thinking about what each one had gone through this year, it really made me so proud to call this place home.
Whether it was O’Daly’s (Nappie Award winners for Best LoDa Bar and Best Drunk Food) talking about the fantastic videos they made to add some much-needed levity during the shutdown, to hearing the hardships this crisis caused Joel and Mike Edwards (Nappie Award winners for Best Barber Shop), or how Guncles (Nappie Award winner for Best Dessert) had to stall plans for expanding their menu — the struggle has indeed been real this year.
And these are just a few examples. We have 301 winners and I know every single one of them has a story to tell. And I am sure it ain’t pretty.
I am happy the Nappies (see what I did there?) celebrate our local businesses and leaders and characters and all that is Mobile. And, yes, they are silly, but they do offer some small recognition to the people and businesses who make our community great and funky — and just who we are. And to me, this year they mean even more.
We will get through this.
And I have to believe Nietzsche and Clairee are right; we will be stronger for it.
Happy Nappies! Congratulations to all of our finalists and winners!
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