I think you must have seen this coming?
All those stories you were backdrop to. You read us like tea leaves. You know all we fear, what we have seen and what is predicted, how we will cope and how we won’t.
So when they are saying this is novel and unprecedented. I know you know us better than that. You have been telling us for years that there is nothing new under the sun. These stories have been told, and these stories will be told again.
Oh and it seems I need to find all the ways to really utilise this time, to make sure I seize the opportunity. Are you having to find new ways to make the best of it too? Are you running a marathon up the aisles, reading all of Tolstoy whilst doing yoga? Some person decided this was the time to remind the world that Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine- bah!
I am spending most of my time looking after my children. I have begun to study their faces again. And listen, it’s not all magical, believe me, home schooling can be a nightmare and all that endless tidying up and crowd control but I am trying to hold on to those gorgeous wee moments. I have been missing them. You know I have been too confident, far too confident, that I would have more time for them.
Am I learning to be more present? Is this mindfulness? I am not sure I’ve really learnt to be a better human. Slowed down? Yup. Had an epiphany? Nope...I don’t think so.
I am not sure you will remember me but I was once one of those wee wriggly kids at your Christmas show. I am sure if I googled it I could get you the right year but it would have been the 80s or maybe the early 90s. The Snow Queen. I don’t need to tell you how amazing it was. We use that word a lot- don’t we? Amazing. I feel I should give you a better word but it was just...I was amazed. I can still remember the goosebumps. It must feel like the best win when you pull them in to you, all those wee wrigglers and sweetie gobblers.
My kids have been coming to your Christmas show for the last few years. Och! You’ll know them-shy smiles and dressed up like they’re going to church. Their Grandma and Papa bring them on Christmas Eve. They save up all year for it. I am the mum now, so I have to stay home with the turkey but my kids come home and share wee bits with me and I put it together like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s still, even second hand telt, amazing.
All this silence must be hard for you. Oh I imagine it was a relief at first but then, what do you do without all that life, without all those stories? To be a home now to darkness...I hope that you get the odd visitor. Perhaps, there is someone who shouldn’t, who now dances on your empty stage. Perhaps, someone who has always been told they couldn’t sing, now croaks out a show tune to keep you company. A failed audition speech soars to the back Circle. I hope so. I hate to think of you so alone.
My granny is seeing it out all alone too. We send her an email every week. We should have done it before now, I feel bad that it took this to finally take some care of her. My mum and my aunty send her cakes and get afternoon teas delivered. She loves cakes and biscuits and is delighted by all her sweet deliveries but still, I find it hard to think of her on her own. Each day, another day without any human contact. The shame is, this is not that different from the days before the lockdown. She has been socially distant for years now, it is over a decade since she was widowed. She has visited for the odd week, she goes on trips, and has things in her calendar and I think we have thought her occupied but I am pretty sure this loneliness is not new for her, although it is, of course, starker now.
We have let ourselves become so busy- haven't we? Family and friendships have slipped away. We have left too many to their own solitude.
And you, you always had an answer to that, didn’t you? That shared experience. That thing of bringing us together. They say we are learning to have a new appreciation for community. Maybe. I hope so.
I see my neighbours now once a week- it is more than before. We clap together and a family from the next street bangs pots. The boy at the bottom of the road plays his bagpipes. We are a bit embarrassed to do this, it feels a bit forced. We are a small c, conservative lot, but the dad across the road is a nurse and it feels the least we can do. One Thursday we clapped him in our slippers as he left for his night shift and then, we that were left, waved to each other from our front doors. As I went in, I shouted, “See you next week!”.
I cried a bit. I have been crying at odd moments- have you? And it’s not just at the news. I wept on seeing a woodpecker in our garden and when I saw my best friend on Zoom.
I wonder, what stories will they want from you when this is done?
Will you seek out old stories, comfort us with nostalgia?
Will it be a time for bold new voices?
Something awe inspiring?
Will you let us grieve, give us a space to sit with you and each other. Let us feel all that we need to?
I need to go now, my children need yet another quiet-down but I am sending you cake, lots of cake.
Stay safe and stay ready, we’ll be back for stories, dressed in our Sunday best, as soon as we’re able.