You beaut, Summer is here
If I were to describe my experience in lockdown with my husband and six children in a not overly large house, I would call it “crowded isolation”. So much of 2020 has been spent negotiating space. Space to play and space to study. Space to be noisy and space to keep quiet (daddy’s on the phone). Do you want to build with Lego or play a boardgame? Clear a space. Want me to sit with you on the couch? Budge up! Make some space. Want to wrestle? Go outside. There’s no space for that here.
As this year has progressed, Summer has sparkled like a pinprick of light at the end of a very long tunnel. Summer will be different. Summer will be special. Summer means freedom and sunshine and travelling further than five kilometres and being together at the end of a difficult year.
And, for all the hidden joys, things have been difficult. Our dishwasher is broken. It’s a small tragedy. Have you noticed how many extra dishes are created when everyone is at home? My teenage son is supposed to be in charge of the dinner dishes. He was very good at loading a dishwasher, but handwashing is a job he detests. For some reason, when my children don’t like to do something, they prefer to make the task last forever rather than just GETTING IT DONE.
I think Christopher finds the sight of several towers of unwashed plates so overwhelming that he needs to spend forty minutes summoning the inner strength just to look at them. Recently I’ve confiscated all surplus dishes (anything beyond eight plates, eight bowls, eight glasses, and, well, fifteen coffee mugs) and hidden them in the linen cupboard. If you want a clean bowl, you’ll just have to wash the one you used five minutes ago. It’s under your bed.
My eldest daughter Matilda is fifteen. At the beginning of the year, she shared a small bedroom with her eight-year-old sister Annie and our then-four-year-old twins, Pippi and Penny. It’s one of those realities of home life that doesn’t sound quite so unreasonable until you have to write it down on paper. I’d always had a vague idea that Matilda would move into the study when she was older, but 2020 had turned the study into an essential home office for her dad. Besides, Matilda had other plans.
I don’t know if it was her longtime fascination for Harry Potter or her yearning for a space that was hidden away and single purpose, but Matilda started sizing up the cupboard under the stairs. Hours were spent with a measuring tape and torch, finding new locations for the vacuum cleaner, DVD collection, suitcases and 34,209 other random items.
A lot of these ended up in my laundry. I am merely stating a fact. Matilda taped an extension cord along the edge of the floor and into her new room. The final result could feature in a tiny homes lifestyle special. My ever-inventive daughter has made use of every inch of space in that cupboard (and its ceiling and walls) to fit a bed, desk, her beloved Melways wall map, even storage for her clothes. Her next task is to figure out how to keep her fascinated little sisters from invading this tiny haven. Matilda loves it, and, while I no longer have a room to stash clothes baskets full of clutter in a panic tidy before guests arrive, I also no longer have any guests arriving, so I guess it all works out.
While I’ve been spending lots of extra time with my immediate family, I’ve barely seen my parents, three brothers, and two sisters – at least not in person. While our Saturday morning zooms (Friday night Michigan time) have become an institution, I really miss just breathing the same air as them. One of my sisters lives 10kms away from me, and, just at the point where our 5km circles overlap, there is a park with a picnic table. Meeting Emily in person to do the Friday crossword together has become one of the great joys of my life. As for the rest of my family, I’ll just have to wait a little longer.
But Summer creeps ever closer. By the time this is published, Summer will be here! I am dreaming of a big house by the beach with my husband and kids, my parents and my siblings. My parents splurged on a large house to fit everyone (sixteen in all, not counting my brother and his wife, who live in America). Can you imagine it? We’d all be together! We could cook together! We could chat and hug and do the crossword and maybe play some boardgames (I’ve got REALLY good at them this year. I’ve had so much practice). We could go for a walk outside for no reason at all. But I don’t dare think of this too often. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that nothing is set in stone. To be honest, I would settle for a hug each from my mum and dad. It’s been a very long time.
I can’t predict what Summer will bring this year, but I do know this: there will always be a Summer. For every season of sorrow there is a season of rejoicing. Good Friday is always followed by Easter Sunday. Today I might stare bleakly at the wall while my five-year-old twins clamber over me. Tomorrow I might gaze serenely at the breaking waves while my five-year-old twins clamber over me.
My beach bag’s all packed. Bring on Summer!