365 Days of Lockdown
I feel like I should say something – ideally something thoughtful and profound – to mark this, the one year anniversary of the day we pulled Max out of nursery, and told our friends and family we probably wouldn’t be seeing them for a while. You know, just a few weeks or so: just until all of the madness ended, and it started to feel safe to go out in public again.
< HOLLOW LAUGH >
Well, no one needs me to tell them what happened next, I’m sure. Like, you’re not all sitting there going, “WHUT? So, you’re saying this ‘lockdown’, as you call it, continued for the entire YEAR? What madness is THIS?!” So while, as I say, I feel like I should probably say something to mark this inauspicious occasion – our ‘Coronaversary’, as I’ve heard it called – I’m not really sure what I CAN say, other than, “WOW”, and “I promise I will never use the word ‘coronaversary’ again, please forgive me.” Look, here’s a photo of my new slippers:
(Slippers c/o Emu Australia; the time to take this photo c/o Max finally starting nursery, praise be to God…)
In the year that’s elapsed since my “We’re going into self-imposed lockdown” post, that ‘new normal’ I wrote about (And, yes, apologies for that one too, it seemed like an unusual turn of phrase at the time…) has long-since become … well, just THE NORMAL, really, and while I don’t think many of us would go as far as to say that they’ve accepted it, exactly, we have at least become accustomed to a way of life that, up until this time last year, would have seemed like something right out of a dystopian novel, rather than real life.
Being separated from our loved ones for months on end.
The government dictating when we can hug our parents or meet up with friends.
Having to wear masks in public places and maintain a 2-metre distance from Other People. (So, I mean, it’s not been ALL bad, really…)
All of the hairdressers and beauty salons being closed, so your husband has to remove your hair extensions with pliers, and your eyebrows get so out of control you start to wish it was acceptable for your facemask to go all the way up to your forehead, as opposed to simply covering your nose and mouth.
That kind of thing.
It’s a bit scary, really, to think all of this seems relatively “normal” to us now. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’m really glad the crippling anxiety of last March has abated somewhat, but, all the same, I still sometimes find myself stopping in the middle of something, just to stand there and think about how WILD it is that it’s currently illegal for me to be inside my parents’ house – and has been for a large part of the last year – you know?
This time last year, I was operating under the assumption that our lockdown would last for around 12 weeks – mostly because that’s how long the government had initially told Terry he’d have to shield for. Even that seemed unthinkable – and, to be totally honest, unlikely – to me at the time: and while the sheer, stomach-churning terror I’d been dealing with since the start of the year made me willing to do it (We literally didn’t cross the threshold of our property during those first 12 weeks: not even to go for a walk…), my overwhelming memory of that time is one of mourning: of sadness for the lives we had collectively lost – if not to the illness itself, but to the lockdown that was designed to keep us safe from it. We could remain alive, it seemed, but only at the cost of actually living: and, looking back now, I’m not sure whether I should feel relieved that I no longer feel that with quite the same intensity, or sad that this state of affairs has come to feel almost normal, one year on.
I may not have a whole lot to say, but that’s never stopped me before, and given that I documented this day last year I figured I may as well set a dangerous precedent by documenting it THIS year, too. And who knows, maybe by the time I get round to writing about March 16th NEXT year, things will have changed enough that I’ll actually have something to report? Fingers crossed, people, fingers crossed…
Actually, though, it’s not today specifically that I wanted to record, but this past week, which has been an unusually busy one in the context of our locked-down life. There was my birthday, of course, which we don’t talk about. There was Mother’s Day, for which Terry had arranged to collect this amazing take-away afternoon tea from a local café:
Although Max is three now, this was actually the first Mother’s Day we’ve really celebrated (When I mentioned this to Terry, he said, “Well, you haven’t been a mum for very long, have you?”, from which I inferred that I’ve been being secretly tested these past three years, and have only now earned my “mum” stripes or something. Coolcool.), and I’m not sure which part was more exciting: the tea itself or the fact that we actually got to LEAVE THE HOUSE to collect it.
(Yes, we all went. Don’t worry, Max and I waited in the car while Terry went into the shop, but after months of doing LITERALLY NOTHING, there was no way I was missing the opportunity to leave the house for ten minutes, even if it WAS just to sit in the car…)
Max also drew a picture of me for my Mother’s Day card, and, let me tell you, I have never felt so SEEN:
NAILED IT. This, folks, is what one year of lockdown looks like, not even joking.
For us, though, the biggest event of the past week was Max’s first day at nursery, which he started almost a year to the day since he was forced to leave the last one, due to the pandemic.
This is a different nursery from the one he attended at the start of last year, because he’s now eligible for a state nursery place, and although we got off to a very tearful kind of start, he’s adjusted much better than we’d expected, especially given that this was not only his first time away from us in a year, but also his first time being around OTHER PEOPLE in the same amount of time. (And, I mean, OK, there was that one episode in which he announced to the class that he had “narcolepsy”, before dropping dramatically to the floor to illustrate his point, but I’m sure his teachers will get used to that kind of thing soon. Ahem. )
(He does not have ‘narcolepsy’, he’s just REALLY dramatic…)
(Other than that, his teacher tells us he’s doing really well, and we’re having to take her word for it because, thanks to the pandemic, we’re not allowed inside the nursery itself, and, much like Fight Club, it seems the first rule of nursery is that you don’t talk about nursery, so Max has been operating a strict “no comment” policy every time we ask about it…)
For Terry and I, meanwhile, the difference that nursery has made to our lives is crazy: so much so that, even though the country is still in lockdown, and we can’t actually DO anything with our newfound freedom, when we came home after dropping him off that first day, and realised we were now free to … well, work and clean, basically… it felt almost like lockdown had ended already. Almost.
Seriously, though, as anyone who’s had to do lockdown with small children will no doubt understand, it was never really the isolation, or even the sheer terror, that made the past twelve months so difficult for us: it was the complete lack of time. For the last year, every single thing we’ve done, from essential, work-related tasks to the tiniest bit of downtime, has had to be done in a rush, sandwiched in between childcare duties, and with the awareness that it could be interrupted at any second. And while I’d obviously never wish we didn’t have Max to look after, I have frequently, in the course of the last 365 days, found myself thinking how much better I’d be able to cope with *gestures vaguely* all this if I just had a bit more time to think.
(And, OK, to clean: because when the house is a mess, I feel like my LIFE is a mess, and I don’t think there’s been a single day this year when the house has been anything less than a mess…)
So, for us, finally having that much-coveted time is the biggest difference between this March 16th and the last one. We are still sad, and overwhelmed, and suffering from a severe case of lockdown fatigue – I mean, who ISN’T? – but we are at least coping: which is significantly more than I could have said this time last year.
Having said that, though, I’m very aware that coping is really all we’ve been doing. We cope: or we try to. And so, whatever the past year has looked like for you, I hope you’re also coping: and that by this time next year, we’ll all be doing so much more than that.