Sharon Randall: The fifth freedom

If Norman Rockwell could’ve painted this day, he might’ve called it: “An Average American Family in the Age of Covid-19 in Desperate Need of Haircuts.”


Instead, my husband snapped it with his iPhone: My younger son, his wife and their three little ones (Randy, 9, Wiley, 7, and Eleanor, 5, in her tiara) sitting in our driveway on the back of their SUV, beaming brighter than the sun.


I wish you could’ve seen them.


Rockwell might’ve included my husband and me perched on folding chairs six feet away. His work captured moments in the everyday lives of Americans for almost half a century in his paintings and illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post.


My personal favorite is “The Problem We All Live With.” It depicts a day in 1960, when a 6-year-old African-American girl, dressed like my Eleanor in her Sunday best, was escorted by four deputy U.S. marshals to an all-white public school.


Another of Rockwell’s best-loved works is “Freedom from Want,” in which an elderly couple present a roasted turkey to their family gathered around the table for Thanksgiving.


It’s part of a series Rockwell based on a speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which FDR cited four basic freedoms: Freedom of speech and expression; freedom to worship as we choose; freedom from want; and freedom from fear.


Those freedoms belong to “everyone, everywhere,” FDR said, and were not a distant vision, but were “attainable in our own time and generation.”


This morning, reading about protests and riots around the country, I realized a heart-wrenching irony: Nearly 80 years after FDR’s “Four Freedoms” speech — and 2,000 years after Christ commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves — we’re still fighting to ensure basic human freedoms for everyone, everywhere.


Even as we fight a pandemic.


Visiting with my kids in the driveway today seemed almost normal, except for keeping our distance. We’ve had several “distant visits” with family lately, including one from my husband’s son, who drove for hours to talk six feet apart.


Any of those visits could’ve been a Rockwell painting, along with our FaceTime calls when my husband reads to his granddaughter, Charlotte, or when I watch 1-year-old Jonah dance and snap his fingers.


But I doubt even Rockwell could have captured the pride in Randy’s face when he showed us a picture he drew for Papa Mark. Or the sadness in Wiley’s eyes when he realized he couldn’t hug me. Or the sound of Eleanor’s voice when she yelled as they were leaving, “How much do you love us?”


That’s a question I’ve been asking my grandkids since they were born. Elle knew the answer and grinned, waiting to hear it.


“All!” I shouted back. Because that’s the most anyone can love.


Like my grandmother, I tell my kids and grandkids that they are all my favorite. Is it possible to have more than one favorite?


My son explained it best, saying this about his children: “They are each ‘The Chosen One’ for different reasons. It’s a miracle to realize that we can love each one of them more than anything in the Universe.”


It would also be a miracle to realize — for ourselves and our children and all children — a world in which everyone, everywhere, is free to love and to be loved and to enjoy the same basic Four Freedoms.


There's a fifth freedom that is equally miraculous: We need to feel free to hold our loved ones close — in times of grief and joy — not just in our hearts, but in our arms.


I believe in miracles. Do you?


Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.