Where do any of us begin with all of this? Changes. MissE and MissM have finished school, we’ve rearranged our bedroom and our sitting room so that MrSB can work from home and the children can’t (hopefully) destroy the electronics left in the alcove where his desk has stood for ten years. I’ve drafted and redrafted a daily schedule for us and I’ve counted the loo rolls.
Usually, we change and then we settle. For good or ill the new becomes the new normal. But this is transient, we await the 5pm announcement on what the world will look like tomorrow. We devour and regurgitate rumor, fact and counter fact and drown under a sea of well-meant advice.
I was going to call this post “Sad” as that is my overwhelming feeling at the moment. But I’m also hugely grateful for the sheer fucking luxury of sadness. My kids and husband are otherwise healthy, our livelihood will not depend on this and having never gotten around to using up last years Brexit box we’re actually well stocked for food. I’ve got my worries, but I know it’s a lot worse for many others and that just adds another rock to the pile on my chest. We’re such an unequal world. This will make it so much worse.
But today hasn’t just been sad. It has run wildly from sorrow to joy faster than I can grasp. I woke up feeling terrible. But the snot face and lack of cough or temperature suggest that, typically, in the midst of a global pandemic, I’ve caught something else entirely. But still I didn’t feel up to taking the kids to school and it dawned on me, only after they had left with MrSB, that it was possibly? probably? the last time we will take MissE to school.
She’s in year 6 and would have been moving up to secondary in September. There were celebrations planned, the SATS tests she’s worked really hard for, a camping trip with her BFFs. That is all gone now. Swept away by something incomprehensively tiny. She didn’t even get to say goodbye to her teacher as visa issues meant they had already flown home, before borders shut. (MissM’s teacher has been in self-isolation all week). And so seven years of primary school, the entire portion of her life that she can remember, ends not with a bang or a whimper but a confused scrabble, a sudden fall of trillion tiny axes.
MissM is ill. I don’t think it’s covid. Actually, I don’t think it’s anything physical. She is usually a laid back and cheery little soul, untroubled by drama. But for some reason always worries about her health. Not surprising then that all this is getting to her. At this point, there seemed little to be gained from psychologically wrestling her into her depleted class.
MrSB has spent the day at his desk. He works for a group of schools that includes the one our girls go to and is working to get them organised to care for the children of key workers and vulnerable kids. Oh god the vulnerable kids. What becomes of them if they don’t go to school? If they don’t get that one half-decent meal a day? That hour with the teacher who notices and cares? I see my husband in brief moments when he emerges for coffee and a hug.
But even in all this there have been moments of joy which would not otherwise have happened. A three-way video call with my kids, my mum and my sister and little niece. The toddlers running and dancing making each other laugh, the adults getting to see each other on a weekday hundreds of miles apart.
The lunch break, three mums in our terraced house gardens chatting over the fences as three sets of kids run about shouting at each other, together but apart.
The Zoom dance group we joined. silly dancing around the sitting room with total strangers, saying happy birthday to an isolated little girl we have never and will never meet.
Making bread from scratch because I knew I would be at home long enough for rising and proving.
Laughter and tears are batting each other aside minute to minute and one of the hardest things is not letting all of that show for the kids. This is new, the technology we are turning to for everything from supplies to pilates classes wouldn’t have been there for us even ten years ago but it feels ancient too. A reminder that we have lived rare and precious lives where many of us haven’t feared waves of disease, empty shop shelves or how to educate our children.
I have no idea what normal is anymore or when it will exist but my kids are home and my cupboards are full enough. It feels like we’ve heard a distant siren or seen a beacon lit on the shore. We’re all fine, we’re just not really sure what comes next.