I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air
Song my Grandmother used to sing
Boys State, according to its website, is “the week that shapes a lifetime.” New Hampshire has participated in this American Legion Program for 73 years, but not this year. Cancelled “with deep regret, due to the ongoing public health emergency.”
In 1955, when the world was much safer, I was one of several Claremonters who signed up for a week at Boys State to learn how government works. The high point was electing a “Governor,” and I somehow became the campaign manager for one of the two candidates.
We gathered the night before election day to plan strategy. Someone, maybe it was me, came up with an idea. We managed to collect enough money, two dollars to be exact, to buy 200 pieces of bubble gum. We covered the wrappers with new ones bearing our candidate’s name. Then, as the “voters” entered the polling place and stood in line, we showered them with our re-labeled pieces of Double Bubble and watched them blow bubbles and vote at the same time. Our candidate won.
As this year’s presidential election draws closer, we are not blowing bubbles, we are living in them. The old legal maxim “a man’s house is his castle” has taken on new meaning. Today, home is our refuge, more than ever a place to be safe. Other places, not so much.
Then there’s professional sports. This year I did not write my annual Red Sox poem. “What’s the point?” I asked myself. Yet the season did finally get under way, with Fenway Park and other ballparks turned into fan-less bubbles. One definition of “bubble” is “something that lacks reality.” I’m reminded of the old question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make any noise?
Still, as Plato said, necessity is the mother of invention. This past July, the National Basketball Association took over much of Disney World, converting it into a quarantined basketball village. The League created an elaborate system of rules set out in a 113-page manual. That’s nearly $9 million a page when you consider that the NBA playoffs produce a billion dollars in television revenues.
Creating bubbles for professional basketball players is one thing, educating our school-age children at home is another. Looking back, I had it so easy, helping with homework when I could. I remember looking helplessly at one of my children’s math homework and saying, “Sorry, you’re on your own.”
Today, two of our children, like parents everywhere, have become involuntary “home schoolers,” on their own in a very different sense. And no one is paying them as they slam-dunk from one laptop to another and dribble their way through apps, codes, and links, not to mention their own jobs.
My first election at Boys State may not have shaped my lifetime, but I still remember those bubble-blowing young voters, so it did leave an indelible impression. If our grandchildren tell their children what life in a pandemic was like (I forgot to ask my grandparents about 1918), I hope they will include not just the indelible horrific parts, but also such pretty bubbles as the strength of community, the love of family, and their grandfather’s latest invention – baking bread.