Letter from Louise

Letter from Louise

“I’ve never known anything like it.” Dad says. 

“Who would have ever thought life would end up like this?” Mum says. 

“It’s so bizarre.” I say. 

We exist in a small bubble. Mum. Dad. Myself. The cats. We mustn’t forget the cats. They have more freedom than us now, prowling about in overgrown fields of grass then strolling round to the neighbours for tip bits. Am I jealous? Yes, I miss the freedom to come and go. 

It’s like life stopped on one Monday in March 2020 leaving us to exist in an alternate reality instead. A world entirely small and, at times, stifling. 

Voices flare over messy kitchens and noisy tvs. Little injustices become magnified in the confines of four walls. No escape. No peace. We disappear into books and movies. Television screens and newfound hobbies. Release, wherever it may come. 

New words rise out of lockdown, and new skills too. Knitting. Drawing. Baking. Who knew there were so many budding bakers out there? DIY. Yoga. Painting. I tried macramé too. Macramé. I’d never heard of that a few months ago. Now a plant hanger and a few dozen misshapen coasters are dotted around the house.  

“It’s a bit small for my cup.” Mum says. 

“I am focusing on small achievements.” I say. 

Because at this time when there’s little to do, little to focus on or feel motivated about, we must seek satisfaction and purpose somewhere. Once these tasks may have seemed menial, now they become our focus. 

Conversations revolve around our little projects. We’d never heard of ‘Zoom’ or ‘Houseparty’ before lockdown either. Now they’re part of our weekly routine. They offer a glimpse, for a short while at least, that life still runs beyond the four walls of our house and the perimeters of our town.  

In the beginning we do quizzes. (When was the first Disney film released? A) 1937 B) 1947 C) 1923). We do a virtual ‘cheers’ with prosecco and gin. We ask ‘when will we do this again for real?’ to no one in particular. We say it with a laugh because surely life will return to normal soon. 

Then as the weeks pass, the novelty wanes. We go back to phone calls in the end – fed up with stilted conversations due to poor wifi and the awkward silences when no one has any news to report. Fed up too, of seeing the faces we love but not being able to reach out to them.  

“When will I see my boys again?” Mum says, her voice wobbly. 

“When will I see my friends again?” I say. 

“When will I see my boat again?” Dad says. 

The people and things we hadn’t realised we took for granted suddenly begin to add up.  

After the conversations have circulated around our newfound hobbies, they inevitably gather around the current situation. And it’s bleak. Anxiety-inducing. Family members on the front line receive a renewed sense of admiration and intrigue. 

“Have you got enough PPE?” Mum says. 

“How many patients are there?” I say. 

“Are there enough staff?” Dad says. 

“We’re tired.” they say. 

Mum bangs her pot every Thursday, the side now dented and scratched. It was cold and dark when this began, then bright and warm towards the end. She waves at the neighbours.  

“See you next week.” she says. 

We feel we must do something. 

The rainbow on our window is faded now but Mum won’t take it down. 

“I think we should have kept the clap for key workers.” she says. 

“I think people want normality back.” I say. 

That it’s over indicates a sense of change. 

As the threat eases, some freedoms return. Family members close by troop round for socially-distanced meals and walks. Not so long ago this was a word we’d never used, now it is a part of daily life. We wanted an emotional, movie-style reunion. Even just a hug. Instead we awkwardly wave our greetings after months spent apart. We are, at least, relieved to say together: 

Hello again.  

 

… 

Lockdown is quiet keys tapping in a home office. Its bike rides and daily walks where people dive into bushes to retain a two-metre distance. Its stressful supermarket shops and food limitations. Loo roll and flour fly off the shelves. 

Lockdown is a newfound appreciation of the outdoors. It’s BBQs in the garden alongside faces pressed to glass windows. Lockdown is isolated. Frustrating. Humbling. It is simple. Stay home. Protect lives. We oblige because there’s a bigger picture to consider. 

Lockdown. What was it like for you? 

I roll back my mind to those ‘uncertain’, unprecedented, times. That’s how everyone described it, as if they couldn’t quite understand it. Couldn’t quite get their heads around it. I look back and this is what I remember. What about you? 

 

Louise Bailey

Tags: From Audience