Warning: this post is not about sewing or craft. And it’s very photo heavy. Feel free to skip if those things aren’t your scene.
It’s day fifty-seven of greater Melbourne’s second lockdown (even more for some suburbs). We moved from stage 3 restrictions (stay at home, no school for most, maximum one hour of essential exercise per day with two people maximum, no dining in) into stage 4 restrictions (all of the above plus masks and curfews and no school for almost anyone and only travel 5km from home and closure or restriction of almost all businesses), and that’s where we currently sit. The daily number of new covid-19 cases is finally going down, but not enough yet to loosen the restrictions. So, how is my family doing?
This second lockdown has felt very different to the first one, which started in late March. Of course, we’ve been living our lives under varying stages of restriction since then, but going back into remote learning and stay at home has been hard. I’m so nostalgic for those sweet days in early to mid June when we were able to gather in groups of ten at a local park, and have cafe meals in groups of less than six! Visiting friends in their homes! Driving up to the country to see my parents! Ah, those were the days.
I’ve been taking a morning photo every morning since lockdown began, usually the view across the city skyline from the window at the top of the stairs. I generally take it somewhere between 7.00am and 7.30am. It’s different every day. It’s a way for me to mark the passing of the days, while forcing me to pause and look and admire the colours and the clouds and the trees. I think about those city buildings, with their twinkling lights, and think about the people who would normally be gathering there. There are very few planes in the sky. I have become used to their absence.
The first few weeks were particularly hard. Dan and I have been working from home since March. Stella didn’t get to return to on-site school after the mid-year holidays. Clare had a couple of weeks back on site – she’s in her final year of school, with the final exams now looming – until we went to stage 4 and she was back studying at home as well. Every day we watched the number of new cases go up, and up, and up. The rest of the country watched it too. But this time it felt like ‘them and us’ as the remaining states (understandably) closed borders. And this time around we were tired. The first time around there was a sense of camaraderie, and novelty, and through the shock and the incredulity our adrenaline kept us going. Second time? SO different. So difficult. I really struggled emotionally for a few weeks. At one point I was incredibly angry. Then amazingly sad. Now I’m okay. I just take life a day to a week at a time. It sounds trite, but I am now much better at living in the moment, appreciating the simple pleasures, and really stopping to admire the wattle, the camellias, the banksias, and the magnolias.
It’s my daughters that I worry about the most, and feel that in my immediate family they are the most impacted. Not being on site in class for Clare’s final year of high school and Stella’s first year of high school have been huge. All the usual rituals and markers and special events that take place in those years are either missing completely or inadequately replicated via technology. I’ve been impressed by the school and their teachers, who are all doing the best that they can possibly do, but it’s just not the same. We’re all so sad about it. Clare and her friends do a pretty good job of staying in regular contact, organising fun online presentation and quiz nights. Stella is making the most of every opportunity to play MineCraft, and ‘chat’ to her online gaming friends, but hasn’t had much opportunity to continue to form and solidify the new friendships that go along with starting high school. Both girls have continued to do Zoom dance classes and instrumental and voice lessons. Clare’s still had online Girl Guides, while Stella is taking a break from it.
Dan is working from the dining table, which is not really ideal, but the shed is too cold at this time of year! His clients are mostly in the same situation, and are now used to Zoom audits where there are household sounds in theh backgrounds. That’s just life and work in lockdown. I was working up until a couple of weeks ago. The contracts for the work that could be done remotely have come to an end, and much of the other work that I do requires us to be on site – just not an option in Melbourne at the moment. And who knows when I’ll be able to go interstate for work again! I had so many trips away for work in my calendar this year; now they’ve all been deleted. I don’t know when I’ll have work again – maybe in a couple of months. The work is still there, waiting – we just can’t do it at the moment. I’m not eligible for JobKeeper, but fortunately we are in a financial situation where it’s not too much of a stress. I have to say that running the household is easier when I’m not also working!
At the moment our life has contracted to a 5km radius. The girls have barely been out of the house; I managed to drag Clare out for a walk only recently. I think that they quite like bunkering down, in a way. The excitement level when the doorbell rings is considerable – because it only rings when we have a delivery! Hair colour, oodies, books, leisurewear, eBay shoes, a dog poo composter! We’ve had specialty chocolate treat kits delivered, multiple meals from local eateries, wine (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and even ice cream. We’ve watched masses of TV. We were relatively late adopters of streaming services – now we have Netflix, Stan and Disney. Good grief. I can barely read books – I don’t have the concentration or the mental bandwidth. I’m back in the habit of doing home manicures, and the girls are working their way through temporary hair colours. Gee, I’m hanging out for the hairdresser to open again. I’m sewing sporadically, not according to any plan or logic whatsoever. I just make whatever takes my fancy, even if unseasonal. Dan has been going for bike rides or for a jog, and he’s meditating regularly. I wish that I found meditation a useful practice, but it’s never worked for me. Stella entertains herself with YouTube and with comic books and some novels – her English novel this semester was a huge hit; we’re waiting for the second and third books in the series to arrive. Shifting googly eyes around this house has also been a source of amusement. Clare’s been doing fancy manicures on herself on a regular basis. Her Literature class had a regular thing going for a while where they all dressed according to a theme for each class – hats, sunglasses, make-up, etc. Our dog Buzz has been unwell, which is awful. He’s fairly old at around thirteen years, and it turns out that he has Cushing’s disease. He’s just started on medication today, and we’re really hoping that this makes him feel much better for his last few years.
I get out for a walk a few times each week – we’re allowed one hour of essential exercise per day, with one other person (wearing masks, of course). I walk with one friend on Tuesdays, and sometimes with another later in the week. We are incredibly fortunate to have a creek and surrounding parklands within walking distance. There are always plenty of people there either walking, jogging or cycling. There’s nothing quite like the trees and the flowers and the sound of the water in the distance. Even on the walk to and from the creek we come across so many beautiful details in the plants and the clouds. My usual coffee catchups on Thursday and Friday mornings are now via Zoom. It’s not the same, but it’s all we’ve got. Monthly book group meetings are also on Zoom. We even did a Nojourn sewing weekend via Zoom. I go to the market or supermarket generally once per week, twice at the most. Everyone there is tense. It’s harder to communicate now that we’re all wearing masks. It’s easy for things to be misunderstood.
I know that this will end. We just don’t know when. And currently I am at the stage where for my immediate family, I can see that the glass is half full rather than half empty. We have a great deal to be thankful and grateful for. There are many people in much more difficult situations. It’s shit, this pandemic is absolute shit, and it’s not going away fast, but eventually it will be over and we’ll be able to move on with our lives. Stella said the other day ‘when I’m old I’ll be able to tell my children about how when I was a teenager I lived through a pandemic and we couldn’t leave the house for months and months’. Well yes, she will. But right now, we just take each day at a time. I hold on to the happiness of overhead conversations between the girls and their friends, to the deeper knowledge of what they are learning at school, and of their constantly strengthening personalities. They are resilient, and they are funny, and they are still seeing the joy whilst acknowledging the sad. I don’t think that I can ask much more than that. I know that I will miss them when they eventually return to on-site learning, while at the same time relishing the time to myself. I hold on to the things that make me smile each day – and it doesn’t actually take all that much.
I hope that those of you who have read this far are doing okay. We’re all riding the coronacoaster. I think of my parents two hours drive away in Shepparton, who I haven’t seen since early June – and they are 82 and 93. I think of my brother Ross who is in North Carolina, and wonder when we will be able to see him again. Then I stop wondering, and just wait. I wait, because that’s all that I can do.
Added graph for context on Melbourne’s numbers of new cases during this second wave, with projections. Further Australian data can be found here.