It's one of the first sunny days of lockdown in Melbourne, and I’m in the park behind our house with our toddler. It was my partner’s turn at the standing desk, and our daughter was not in favour of quiet work time for daddy.
Every now and then I look around in alert: Will anyone disagree with our use of outdoors exercise hour? We’re not exactly exercising…
My almost three-year old is standing on the path that crosses the park, directing me to move back. I take a few steps back but she’s not satisfied.
Back more mummy! Back! Back! she says, her palm raised like a stop sign.
I go further away from her, and when she’s happy, she launches into a crazy toddler run towards me, legs swinging wildly, arms in the air, face beaming with excitement. I kneel and open my arms, and I sweep her up and twirl, much like a reunited Hollywood duo. Then she kicks to be put down and runs back to the path to repeat the scene.
We do this for a while, and in that time, the pandemic exists only at the periphery of my thoughts. I don’t have time to lament about it, about isolation, about our lives being put on hold indefinitely. Life is happening right now, and I don’t want to miss it.
My family, like everyone else, had very different plans for 2020. We were going to spend time creating memories with our overseas families and our toddler.
My family, like everyone else, had very different plans for 2020. We were going to spend time creating memories with our overseas families and our toddler. We would have boarded a plane in April, but COVID worries started, and the borders closed before we started packing our bags.
In the beginning it was easier to lean into the break from normal life. We watched more TV, and that became a novelty. We took more nature long walks in the park. We danced more. A lot more. But our waiting room life stretched and stretched. In Victoria, the second lockdown came down like a guillotine on our hopes of going back to a more familiar normal. It became harder to appreciate the little moments. Harder to even be aware of them as they happened.
So I decided I had to work on that.
At some point during one of the lockdown extension announcements, it dawned on me that life wasn’t waiting. Life had - whether we liked it or not - progressed. I’ll remember the disappointments, the anger, the sadness, the flatness, the thin ice, the Groundhog-Day-ness of it all. But is that all I want to remember? And would that be an accurate description of our life in times of coronavirus?
I want to remember more than that.
I want to remember my daughter’s interest in ballet going from a preference for tutus as everyday attire, to moving around in pirouettes, twirls and tippy toes throughout the day.
I want to remember how for a whole week we treated ourselves with the most delicious meals, like we were on some kind of gourmet culinary world tour. How we ate seared crispy duck, Spanish seafood stew, Moroccan chickpea bake with fried bread and yoghurt.
I want to remember watching The Road with my partner, both of our cheeks tears-streaked.
This is not to silver line the pandemic with a thick coating of oblivious positivity (and if I hear one more invitation to ‘think positively’, I might just lose it).
But I can’t ignore that even when I’m adamant to wish the whole year away, a tiny grace-filled moment sneaks up on me. And I could ignore it. Sometimes I really try to, but often I give in, and I’m there. Present, heart tender with simple joy.
Wishing the year away feels like another thing that is being taken away from me. I refuse to do it. Extracting whatever I can find good in it is my act of resistance. And then I get tired, and want to go to sleep, and wake up when it’s all over.
Wishing the year away feels like another thing that is being taken away from me. I refuse to do it. Extracting whatever I can find good in it is my act of resistance.
While I continue this battle in my head, my daughter grows and grows and grows. She rides her scooter with fast and furious confidence, though she still hasn’t learned how to use the breaks. The clothes we bought her only two months ago, before the second lockdown, are now small. I ordered my first ever retinol cream, as I reckon with lines and creases that also refuse to wait the pandemic out.
Part of me still wants the mountain trolls to magically erase this year. But on days when it’s sunny, or when we linger in bed as a family later into the morning, I don’t wish the year away. I get glimpses of memories that I want to keep.
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