The last time I went out of the house to work was in late February last year. It came after a long period of working from home, so I was a little nervous to be heading back out into the world. My youngest gave me the following stirring pep talk:
‘Don’t worry Mummy, the absolute worst that can happen is you forget literally everything you know about work and get fired, or you might accidentally set fire to the building. But both of those are really unlikely so just remember you are safe and loved’.
With those words of wisdom ringing in my ears I set off, together with the unexpected new fear that I might be spotted on the news later that day in front of a burning building. I did a couple of weeks and then that was that. The famous Woody Allen quote ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans’ has never seemed more apt.
And we’ve all quickly got used to a new way of living over the last year. I’m not sure much would surprise us anymore. If they announced that from now on before entering a supermarket, you had to first strip naked and stand under a shower of disinfectant at the entrance, we’d all pack a shower cap along with our mask and gel and ask whether towels were provided.
But now we get to see family again! It’s been wonderful, and who knew the level of joy that could be experienced from sitting in a garden wearing thirty-five layers of clothing and listening to small people moan about how freezing they are? All my fault of course. If only I had tried more than ninety-seven times to get them to bring a coat, instead of allowing them to fall about laughing, point at the sight of the sun in the sky and announce it was tropical outside. Why didn’t I realise when they were calling me old and saying I worried too much, that they were secretly hoping I’d bring a spare jumper or two?
That said, it was still wonderful just to be able to spend the day with the people we love. And something that at the moment we definitely aren’t taking for granted, because a much-loved family member died recently. He’d been shielding for over a year and we hadn’t seen him except over FaceTime, so for us, it’s taking a bit of time for the news to sink in. He was funny and kind, incredibly strong emotionally and a big tease as well. And even using the word ‘was’ to describe him feels wrong. I won’t say more than that, except that he will be deeply missed by so many people, and I wish that we had known at the end of 2019 that we were hugging him for the last time, but I’m also very glad that we had no idea.
As a stark reminder of how life goes on, we’ve been making plans for the future. We’re really lucky that my youngest has been offered a place in September for her first choice of secondary school, so we are thinking ahead about induction days and uniforms and the last day of primary school. It’s all very exciting for her, and she’s happy that after three years she will be back at the same school as her older sister.
We think her older sister is pleased too, but it’s hard to tell these days, because not only is she fourteen, she’s exceptionally good at being fourteen. She hasn’t seen a morning since the schools broke up for Easter. Occasionally we think we catch a glimpse of something human-shaped coming out of her room, but by the time our eyes have adjusted to the sight, and our brains to the shock, she has got her food and is back in her room, the door firmly slammed, and we can never be fully sure it happened.
We’ve taken to switching off the Wi-Fi every now and then, just so we can double-check she’s still alive. It’s reassuring to discover that yes, she is still with us, but equally harrowing because we have basically poked the beast and then have to face the consequences. It’s a shame she spends so much time in her room these days because honestly, I had no idea how clever teenagers were until we had one. They literally know everything! More than both parents and all their teachers put together, they have a full and complete understanding of how the world works.
What a shame that instead of getting out there and teaching world leaders a thing or two, they opt to use their higher intelligence to heap scorn on their parents’ very existence, whilst simultaneously asking for money. What she isn’t quite clever enough to realise though is that there will never be any spare money, because of the Catch-22 situation that requires mothers of all teenagers to spend it all on wine.
Bring on Bedtime!