For the first time in an age, I’m alone in a house filled with silence. Well, almost alone. My husband is “at work” upstairs. Employing quotes implies that he isn’t actually working. He is.
I cannot hear My Little Pony playing on the TV downstairs. I cannot hear my son humming repetitively under his breath while he concentrates on something. I cannot hear the sound of my daughter’s foghorn flute voice asking me for a cup of water/a snack/a show/another snack/help/a sweater/clean socks/a cookie/screentime/playtime.
I cannot hear my children because they are at school. And lo, the children did returneth to school, and the parents across the land rejoiced.
I am alone with my thoughts. Exciting as they are. Last year, I asked a friend, a stay-at-home mum to three, what she was going to do now that her kids were all in school. She thought for a minute, and then said, “I’m going to think really long thoughts.”
So I’m sitting in the dining-room, thinking long, uninterrupted thoughts.
Over the last six months, the kids and I have filled the school-less days with many, many things. Games. Outdoor time. Puzzles. Artwork. Eating. Baking. Eating the Baking. Cleaning. Making Messes. Cleaning Again.
I recognize that there is an element of good fortune in not having a proper job to try to maintain. My job for the past half year has been to manage my kids and keep them happy and occupied in the weird post-COVID world we inhabit. And to keep them away from the office door because, Shhhhhh, Daddy’s on a call!!
I say “them” but really it’s my daughter who must be shushed. There are definite advantages to having a child who is a born talker. There are disadvantages too. I’d break it down like this:
Pros: Eloquent. Expresses self. Often hilarious. Strong debating skills.
Cons: Rarely quiet. (See my post Movie Kids.) Talks over the top of people. Interrupts.
When I get irritated with her for sending my train of thought skittering off the tracks, I have to remind myself that she’s probably destined for a luminous career in law or stand-up comedy.
It’s so quiet in here that I can hear the clock ticking.
Today I celebrate my son’s 12th year on the Earth.
Somehow, inexplicably, twelve years have flown and crawled and staggered past us. Ten years have gone since his cancer diagnosis, and time has rubbed away some of the horror of that wound, for all of us.
2020 has, and let’s not sugar-coat it, been a bit of a shit year all ’round, am I right? All of our lovely plans have gone up in smoke, the global pandemic rages on, and the uncertainty of what the future holds has us staring at the ceiling at night, and anxiously checking our news-feeds over and over.
I haven’t been immune to it. Fear has definitely got its sharp hooks into me too.
But I’ve been here before. 2010 was the worst year of my life. I stood on the brink of losing my only child oh-so-many times. Every day was a different kind of struggle. I was happy too, though, because I still had him. The highs were high and the lows were very low.
The life that I’d expected wasn’t happening. That life was gone, blitzed away by scalpels and chemo, and we were living a new life for which we didn’t have the script.
In the years that followed, grief and anxiety became constant companions, as I wrestled, daily, with all of the terrible repercussions that cancer had brought to my son, and to me, and my husband and my then unborn daughter.
I imagine that many, many, of us, around the world, are feeling this way now. The days ahead are uncertain. A nameless fear surrounds us, and a gnawing worry for our loved ones. We can’t see the road ahead. We want things to return to “normal” but despair that they never will.
Here is a secret: there is no normal. There is only what each generation has grown to perceive as the usual way of things. Oh I know, that doesn’t help very much, does it? Okay, so we can still hope that things will return to some semblance of normalcy, and usually, as history has proven, eventually, they will.
Given time, we will be able to hug and kiss each other with reckless abandon. We will go to parties and just take a piece of cheese off of a plate without a second thought. We will not wear our masks wherever we go. We will go to concerts again! We will have a runny nose and think, oh, just a sniffle. We’ll be packed like sardines in a stinking-hot subway car again. Goals, 2021.
The constant lesson of my last decade is this: Living in the shadow of fear is no way to live.
But how do we push back against fear? I only know that my best defence, against all of it, is to first look inwards. Sleep, eat, exercise, meditate, breathe. You know the drill.
And then, my next move is to just have a little faith. Have a little positive belief that things will be all right. I know. Sometimes they are just not all right. Things happen to us that are in no way okay. Existence and loving others = pain and suffering at times, as we experience loss and grief, and wonder if joy will ever be ours again.
For me, my belief has had to be that my son will continue to live and not relapse, and not develop a secondary cancer. And then, I have to, must believe that my daughter will not develop a brain tumour, and will continue to thrive and be her beautiful 5 year-old self. Beyond that, I then must believe that I will not grow a horrid tumour in my head either. I can’t.
The odds are stacked. We’ve got this bloody genetic fuck-up going on in our cells. But it’s also a matter of Who knows? and Maybe. So I’ll place my bets on the side of everything’s-going-to-be-alright, thank you very much.
I don’t want to take away from anyone’s pain. These recent times have tried us and wounded us. The stories of loss keep rolling out and have us shedding silent tears for the sorrows of the world.
No doubt, 2020 has been a wreck. But very soon, my son will be starting Grade 7 at a new school and naturally, he’s got that new-kid trepidation, but with all of the COVID protocols piled on top.
Am I worried for him, with his health history? I guess I would be insane not to worry, at least to some degree. But I refer you to the above comment about fear. I’ve been given good guidance, by his doctors, to not fret too much. To carry on as much as possible. To continue to embrace as much normalcy as we are able.
My son was born twelve years ago today. Tonight, by request, we’re celebrating with a spaghetti dinner followed by chocolate mousse. COVID birthday or not, today is a wonderful day.
There are a lot of posts and memes going around right now about how much we Gen Xers are showing quarantine/social distancing who’s boss. At the risk of sounding like a crotchety member of the older generation, it’s true. In our day we had to play with pet rocks for chrissakes!
Sometimes it feels like the kids of today have it all.
And by all, I mean things like devices that cost hundreds of dollars and provide endless hours of fun and excitement. When I was a kid, it was mind-boggling to have, like, Atari. (We never had Atari.) Even a game as low-budget as a Wonderful Waterful was pretty entertaining. (And honestly, I don’t know if we actually had one of those either.)
Back in the heyday of the 80s, when you went over to a friend’s house, you played outside in the backyard. Completely unsupervised of course. My brother and his friend used to light GI Joes on fire using cans of Lysol spray to incinerate them.
But I digress. Back to the backyards. Many people had a swing-set. Usually one of those ordinary aluminum ones that threatened to come out of the ground if you got the swings going too fast. Others had fancier ones with monkey bars and slides.
If there was no play structure, then you just picked dandelions or did cartwheels in the grass or something. We really, really did have to make our own fun. Okay, sometimes there was a sprinkler to run through as well.
Occasionally though, you’d go to someone’s house and – wait for it – they would be in possession of the most fun, the most dangerous piece of backyard apparatus that existed. The trampoline.
It was such a rarity that I only remember jumping on one a few times in my childhood. Maybe I was just running with the wrong crowd. Naturally, there were no safety nets or padding on the springs. Without doubt, those things were the cause of any number of cranial injuries or broken limbs.
Somewhere along the line though, someone got smart about trampoline design. Now, you will basically never see one without netting around it. And you will see a lot of trampolines because everyone seems to have one. Not having one is also okay, because you can just go to a trampoline park, another amazing thing that didn’t exist in the 80s.
Last year, our lack of outdoor fun became a bone of contention between the husband and I. I decided I wanted to buy a trampoline for our very small, urban backyard. I’d put aside some money and wanted to spring for (groan, I know) a compact, quite expensive trampoline. Fun and safety together. My husband was more inclined to allow our children to play with rocks or dandelions.
My kids were not going to have the kind of deprived childhood I had. Although I knew it would pretty much fill the backyard, I did it. I bought it, it was delivered, and my husband put it together with only a modicum of complaint. (He deserves kudos for assembling it for us despite the weather, which if memory serves was a very sleety kind of rain.)
He thought that they would lose interest in it after a couple of weeks. But a year later, those dire predictions have yet to come true.
The trampoline is, along with ice cream, keeping everyone sane right now.
“Go outside and jump on the trampoline for a few minutes,” is a phrase the kids have been hearing a lot of over the last few weeks.
Now that we’ve all got all the time on our hands, it’s a good moment to dust off that juicer that’s been suffering neglect in your cupboard. I’ve had this baby below for, probably, sixteen years.
When we’re going through health-kick phases, it lives on the counter, so that everyone knows what kind of a**holes we are when they come into the house. Otherwise, we keep it in an annoyingly inaccessible cupboard, making daily use impossible.
It’s back on the counter now! Because if the Internet has taught me something, it’s that celery juice can cure anything if consumed in the correct quantities.
Juice doesn’t have to be that hard. It doesn’t need to taste like grass to do you good. I usually just throw a bunch of stuff in there with carrot as a base. (Because cheap)
In these crazy times, food waste has become a cardinal sin. Making juice is also a great way to use up fruit and veggies that have gone a bit past prime.
The biggest bonus of all is watching your children consume nutrition in a glass without even arguing, as beets = pink.
The other day, the kids and I made a juice, and then used the pulp to make muffins. I know, I am amazing.
The reality check of all this healthy living is that I ended up standing in the kitchen for two hours, making juice and cleaning juicer parts. And making muffins with a child on hand who wanted to “help” but basically spilled every ingredient before storming off in tears because Mummy is mean.
Stuck in the house though, what else have I got to do except clean up messes that my kids make? What are you doing to safeguard your health? Celery juice? 😂
Is the best flavour of ice cream in the world. There, I said it.
And this stuff they make at our local, Ed’s, somehow manages to capture in its frozen goodness the essence of summer campfires. Without the mosquitoes.
Forget canned beans and frozen peas. A pint or two of this is essential. For mental health. Unfortunately, like many other things in the city, essential services like ice cream stores will have to be closed for awhile.
Have we invented a word yet for the regret we feel for the things we failed to stock up on when it all got real?