MARGARET JACKSON today, and with her brother and "best buddy", John, during World War II
Last weekend, I got a phone call from an 86-year-old woman isolated in a West Vancouver apartment—and our conversation left me with a gem I just had to share.
You see, Margaret Jackson has seen this kind of situation before. As she shelters in place like her neighbours and others around the world to help fight the spread of novel coronavirus, she’s reminded of life in London, England during World War II—which was the topic of an interview I’d conducted with her months ago as part of research for my forthcoming book.
Margaret wanted to talk about the strong correlation between her experiences of war and of our daily lives today as we follow the directives of experts to contain the virus.
“How can you find a blessing in war?” she laughed on the phone. “How can I ever thank World War II? But because of that experience, now I’m doing better than most.”
Born in north London in 1933, Margaret was six years old when war broke out. Raised at a time when children made their own fun, she developed a lot of self-reliance especially in wartime. “I was a Brownie, and would walk home [from meetings] alone,” she related. “We knew that if there was an air raid siren, we should go to the nearest house. We grew up with a tremendous amount of independence and resilience.”
Margaret said she and her younger brother John were “best buddies, because we had to be. We would get involved in activities that would absorb us for the whole day.” They’d run water into the bathtub, make boats from bits of paper, use marbles for passengers, and occupy themselves that way for hours. Or they’d spend the day painting or pretending to play adult games like cricket. “We grew up knowing how to entertain ourselves. And this has never been more clear to me than it is today.”
“People don’t always know how to make their own fun,” observed Margaret. “They’re accustomed to going out to activities, and to eating out often. They have no experience to fall back on.” Margaret is quick to point out that the current need for social distancing makes today’s situation more difficult for some people even than wartime. But she hopes we can manage nonetheless.
Dig deep into the things at home that you’ve always wanted to do but have not made time. . . . Don’t feel your home is a prison. It can be a sanctuary.
Margaret has advice for us in these times: “Dig deep into the things at home that you’ve always wanted to do but have not made time. It might be writing, or sketching, or something else. Don’t feel your home is a prison. It can be a sanctuary.”
Read more about Margaret's wartime experience here.