To read a little bit more about the bigger project the following is an excerpt from, click on over to January.
A month ago, we put a deposit on a puppy. We had been using ‘when you’re eight’ as an answer to the six-year-old’s constant question, but that took into account another juicy couple of years of travel and growth, another couple of big trips to Australia. But, none of that holds up anymore: not the travel and, at least, the growth somewhat differently to how I’d imagined. We’ll keep growing, but in a smaller world. This year looks to be as confined as the last. I don’t know when we’ll get to Australia next and with me working from home until at least October, we’ll have plenty of time at home for toilet training and bonding. And, truthfully, part of it feels a little like making a very small stand. Like a small child wanting to exert some semblance of control over their life by refusing to get changed or eat their dinner, we want to exert a little control over ours. Okay, we can’t travel, we can’t play sport, go to kindergarten, work like we want to, see people, celebrate birthdays but, strewth, we can buy a puppy a couple of years earlier than planned. Take that. Of course, everybody’s buying a puppy for the same reason and it took a dozen phone calls to find a decent-looking breeder with an impending litter that hadn’t been sold out. Quite like when we bought our house and had to tell the real estate agent on the spot we’d buy it (after a harried meeting in the kitchen, baby in the sling, toddler bored) we had to decide if we want this puppy and if so, put a deposit down immediately. So we did.
For four weeks, the kids ask daily for puppy updates and I dutifully show them Instagram pictures of the mummy plumping up, a headshot of the extremely handsome father. We buy a dog bed, a chew toy, the kids agree on a soft toy from their collection to give to the puppy when we pick it up. I pull out the old cot bed sheets and mattress protector from when the kids were little, and tuck them away for the early toilet training days. We order books on raising puppies and involve the kids in the ongoing conversation as much as possible. Finally, one Sunday, February crawling to a close, we get the message: the puppies have been born. Nine of them, seven boys, two girls, all chocolate. The pictures come through, these tiny wrinkly things with their sleek, cocoa coats. A little light glimmers.
Meanwhile, Merkel is talking about the third wave. It’s here and numbers are rising again, at the same time as schools are slowly starting to re-open and kindergartens have returned to ‘normal’. People are booking Easter holidays, our state’s minister wants to open hotels for the school holidays in April. They don’t know anything about how the variants affect children. A virologist refers to kids being back in school with the variant lurking as an ‘experiment’ and that makes my stomach drop. We’re all in medical-grade masks now, my daughter included, cloth ones haven’t been allowed in weeks. The all-important ‘seven day incidence number’ which was under 35 has crept back up to 50. Plans to open animal parks and florists and hardware shops on the 1st of March remain. None of it makes sense but everyone’s tired and pissed off – it feels like even though everything points to now being the wrong moment to open everything up, the horse has bolted and everyone’s too exhausted to chase it. I watch the kids thrive once more, with something to do everyday that isn’t governed by us, confined to our four walls and small garden. I am so horribly, horribly relieved they are back, stretching their wings, and I can work in peace until I pick them up and we spend the afternoon together. It feels like we have cycled back into ‘normal’ but that is laughable. Normal is a word that has no place here, it’s been sent outside to think about what it wants to be. Instead, we wait with the weight of what we don’t know. This semblence of normality is just that, a theatre set that can be dismantled and packed up at any moment. But, more than that, it feels like the point at which it could all change again is so arbitrary. I have lost track, we all have. Mostly we’re all so tired, I think. We have been holding the brace position for nearly a year now. My back’s sore, I want to come up for air.
The end of February. I cut back the climbing rose that needs a bigger pot, pull out the long, brown grass from around the photinia’s slim trunks – they hate having the base of their trunks crowded. We watch The Lion King and Up and I cry throughout both. I barely last forty seconds into The Circle of Life before I’m bright red and snotty. By the end of Up’s opening scenes, I’m a mess. All of the things they didn’t do, Mr Fredericksen and Ellie. All of the adventures they had planned. I’m a sucker at the best of time for such sentimentality, but I’m worse than ever these days. Is it age? The past year? I think I have always been somewhat sensitive to nostalgia, to this idea of being unable to touch, suddenly, whole pieces of time. Who closed that door? Who ended that? Since when do I have so many lines around my eyes? But it all feels so much heavier now, doesn’t it. The door closes now and it feels like I wasn’t even in that time and nor were you and nor were they and now it’s over. That baby’s walking and talking, that kid’s starting school, I wasn’t there for any of those laugh lines.