Since lockdown the kids in our street have been making the most of school and the sun being out. With not a mobile phone in sight or a coronavirus care in the world they are out in the fresh air everyday.
The parents sit out front, chatting door to door while their children play in what must feel like an endless summer; only going indoors once they’ve pushed their luck. I had to laugh at a wee lad, who had obviously had his bath and was in his pj’s, bolting back out to play with the older kids. Hot on his heels was his mother, it was only after much protestation and with head down, he conceded defeat and reluctantly went back inside. I can’t tell you how much this takes me back.
But it’s not just the bairns that revel in this new found freedom, I too have embraced lockdown with the same gusto. Obviously I’m not running around in a superhero cape and just my pants, but I have taken to pleasing myself with that same childlike abandon I had when I was five.
I could never resist the call of the wild
We are all victims of growing up, childhood is such a small window of time; blink and you’ve forgotten where the wild things are. But with no dates in the diary and left to my own devices, the lockdown has unlocked the feral in me. Barefoot most days and then there’s my hair, it’s sprouting everywhere. I know I’m a heathen, but if the restrictions don’t lift soon, one could mistake my beaver for a beaver.
Pre Covid life was hell for leather but with work on pause things have eased. Especially now I’ve let go and trusted the reins to my inner child. I purchased Disney + Clapped with delight at the new Nature and Documentary channels on Sky. Read late into the night and occasionally stay in bed an hour longer with a cuppa and the book from the night before. Somedays I don’t make my bed, forgoing housework to write all day instead. Or now and then with Obi in the gap, curl up on the sofa and take a nap.
Or I’ll let the boy’s sleep and rise early, so I can be in the forest at first light. Initially my hubby worked from home, he’s back on rotation now but we have both enjoyed having our sons around (minus the heaving laundry basket, the ever empty cupboards or the toilets that need a daily shot-blast.) We all spend our allocated hour together with evenings sitting around the fire pit, a few drinks and much laughs. When they do return to work, I don’t know who’s going to miss them the most, us or the dogs.
It’s just like when they were wee, where we’d all pile into the car and head to the beach or into the woods. Climb colossal sand dunes, then sledge or sprint back down at breakneck speed. Or play hide n seek with the dogs among the pines, and I’d terrify the boys with tales of Werewolves and Brollachans. We had feck all back then but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Whatever the weather Nature and fresh air are free. In the words of Robert Burns, we were “contented wi’ little, and cantie wi’ mair.”
At the start of the year we lost one of our beloved dogs, Scout. She was the family dog and loved by us all. But she was my brown eyed girl; for twelve years the keeper of my secrets and ear to my tears. Her passing broke me, I was lost with half of me missing. We had no intentions for another until we found Obi; or rather he found us. We may have been down but this wee inky pocket rocket has lit our lives up! I’d forgotten the joy a puppy can bring. And as I stood in my garden blowing dandelion puffs for Obi to chase, his presence reminded me that one doesn’t need to be childish to be childlike.
When lockdown is over, let’s not tell some people
Home isolation does mess with you a bit though. One day you’re cleaning nooks and crannies with a cotton bud, the next, you’re drinking tequila watching blue tits in the garden. I was the kind for routine, someone who had all their ducks in a row, however, along came the menopause and those ducks have morphed into squirrels at a rave. Combine this grand climacteric with lockdown and I’ve discovered – menopause bladder and jumpsuits are a really bad idea, my ability to procrastinate is stellar and come year end, I’ll be a fat alcoholic.
a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return; the nostalgia, the yearning; grief for the lost places of the past
Studies show that nostalgia increases a desire for social connectedness, enhances mood and help reduce stress. It makes people feel loved and valued, and increases empathy for those socially isolated and alienated. Heart-warmingly, proof of this affinity has been seen across the world since the onset of the lockdown. The power of nostalgia offers us an opportunity to reflect on the past and draw knowledge from our experiences. It’s like the briefest moment of time travel; and between the seconds we sift the coulda, woulda, shoulda’s.
However, not to piss on the chips but the antagonist in me just has to ask? Since we’ve always had the good stuff, why has it taken a pandemic for us to share it?
I don’t clap or bang pots on a Thursday night. Why? Because I learned long ago not to take things for granted. In addition, I’ve always known and appreciated that carers do a thankless task with no expectation. Posties deliver to and for us in all weathers. My youngest son’s girlfriend works for the local council but rather than furlough took on a new role. Albeit it is temporary, but with a mere five days training she is now a carer, which includes palliative home care. That essential workers are the backbone of this country, not politicians. And NHS staff have always been phenomenal. I should know, my Ma was a staff nurse. One like all the rest that graft their arses off for fuck all pay.
“The most beautiful stories always start with wreckage.”– Jack London, Call of the Wild
I never thought I looked much like my Ma but of late especially when I laugh or glance in the mirror, it’s not me I see but her. The resemblance is fleeting, like dust on gossamer wings. Nonetheless, it smarts like the pang of homesickness.
I read once that if you never tell anyone the truth of yourself, eventually you start to forget. Keep it all inside, and the memories will start to disappear. It is poetic that “I miss you” in French “tu me manque” translates as “you are missing from me.” Perhaps in the stillness of isolation I’ve realised that our likeness is all I have left that connects us.
And so another birthday came and went, and while it’s been five years since we last spoke,when the mail dropped on the mat I still hoped for a card. With every anniversary, I wonder if she looks for an old photo and that she like me, when she says sleep tight, tucks away a memory like a novel under a pillow. A pinkie promise – always together if we have our books, and between the words where we live in each others hearts.
47298 that was the house phone number when I was wee. It’s weird the things you remember, and don’t. Because no matter how hard I try to recollect, I have absolutely no memory of the two years after my Granda died. Psychiatrists call it dissociative amnesia. Memories that retreat into the shadows, suppressed I guess for self-preservation.
Some say it’s harmful to dwell in the past, and I agree one shouldn’t linger there too long. But there are years that ask questions, and years that answer, and however bittersweet, what are we if not the weave and stitch of memories.
“Normal is an illusion. What is chaos for the fly is normal for the spider.”
They say it will be a “new normal” when it comes ?
When restrictions lift many will be keen to return to what they knew before. But before you rush in, ask yourself, do I really want to? Limitations are often self-imposed and borne out of fear. Nobody could have anticipated the impact of the pandemic, but yet here we are, living through the uncertainty. Surely now we have been stretched by this new experience, we can’t go back to the old dimensions?
As beneficial as reflection can be I don’t live in a halcyon haze, some memories err on the dark side and they are potent. Growing up, self-care was seen as an indulgence, if I wasn’t running around after others I was selfish and lazy. As a consequence, I’ve always struggled to switch off. It takes courage to say yes to rest and recuperation, especially when it is etched into the psyche to keep going till you drop like Boxer. However, lockdown forced my hand. And I have no intention of going back to how I was before.
While the pandemic has brought societies together, it also tragically exposed our fragility. We may have believed ourselves omnipotent but the natural world had different ideas.
I believe Mother Nature tried sore to make us listen. We didn’t, so hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. She’s shown us it is what it is till it isn’t. So I reckon we better not piss her off again. My advice? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, and strive to be a wilder kind of kind.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Thanks to a kick up the arse from the Coronavirus, my hubby and I have finally stopped playing for time and scattered long held dreams to the wind. Let them land where they will for next year is going to be an awfully grand adventure.
When I look back on 2020, it’s not the diffidence or material things I’ll remember; but my family and that the best thing about memories is making them.
Because living is a gamble and loving’s much the same.