Do you ever forget that this is the world that we are actually in?
Sometimes, when it’s quiet in my house and my son is napping, I think for a second how strange it is that no one has been able to come visit him. I keep thinking that there is this other world where I didn’t have to give birth surrounded by strangers. Where are my family came to stay in the hospital with us and help us. Where Rhys got to meet people and be familiar with them when he was still a newborn. Where he got to wear the clothes his grandparents tried to ship to him. Where we took him travelling as I always planned to do with my babies, flying in between continents that once seemed so close together.
I still have moments more than a year since lockdown began for us on the 29th of January 2020 where I forget what exactly is going on. There was a moment last year when I was teaching in the summer, when we were still doing remote learning, when I turned off the classroom app on my computer and opened the news. There was a headline about Iceland closing borders and a number of cases being detected near one of the places that Russ and I call home. Even though I had been living in the world of the pandemic for several months at that point, I suddenly felt as if the whole room was tilted at a 45 degree angle. Cases? A virus? Quarantines, hazmat suits, borders closed?
It very much felt unreal. Like I had just come from a world where Covid-19 never had happened and I had been plunked down on my living room floor, watching notifications of border closures roll in on my laptop in disbelief.
There have been an infinite number of navel-gazing pieces about the pandemic. Since the very beginning, people have sought to make sense of what was happening by writing about it. It’s a natural response, especially if you find yourself having to stay at home in order to be safer, and not being able to cook enough sourdough to fully occupy your time.
Today I made a recipe I first made a year ago when we were still in the heavy lockdown here. At this time last year things had opened up somewhat in our city, but we still would be working from home until July. We did manage to get out hiking a few times last March. At this time last year, we were still holding on to hope that we would be able to use our two-week vacation in May (booked on the 22nd of January, the last day of the before times for us) to visit the UK.
Even though we had planned for me to be pregnant, I wasn’t yet. I was secretly terrified of driving on the opposite side of the road for camping and hiking adventures in the Scottish Highlands. I think it was around now, watching in horror as the situation in northern Italy unfolded, and going downstairs to pick up an order of Scottish whiskey from near where we got married, that I came up in the elevator hugging the bottle in its packaging and whispered to myself, “This is the closest that we will get to Scotland this year.”
Sometimes I put on 4K videos of Colorado or the Pacific Northwest on YouTube. Look at pictures that I took uploaded onto my phone press the lock screen so that it changes from one place to the next that I love on this Earth so every time I open it I get to see if you I want saw with my own eyes. Lately, maybe because of the weather outside being quite grey, it sure feels as if I will never have to worry about driving on the opposite side of the road in Scotland. In the world that would be, I would already know whether I could handle it.
It certainly feels like living in exile these days. There’s no end in sight. It certainly feels as in there is some other world just out of reach beyond an invisible dimensional curtain. It certainly feels like although we have everything we could materially want at the moment, our lives are on hold.
Sometimes I try to order something on Taobao from a home of mine. Lavazza from Italy. PG Tips from England. Sleepytime tea from Colorado. Cedarwood oil to make me think of Washington. Kimchi. Wheatgrass. Patchouli. Clotted cream. Smells and tastes of the prelockdown world where I could travel freely and easily are the most comfort. If I smell the bag of ground espresso and squint, I can imagine I’m in an Italian train station and not my tiny kitchen on the 28th floor in Rongqiao.
In the world that would be, we would have gone to our homes by now to restock. We could have real teas from Rebecca’s Apothecary in Boulder and we could have visited Celestial Seasonings. We could have underwear that fits and I could have had real maternity clothes. In the world that would be, we would have had company for Christmas and maybe some beer at Crystal Springs in Louisville when we visited this May, baby in tow. In the world that would be we might have already applied to move to a new place, certain that wherever we went would be safe enough for our baby and offer us a chance to fly to be with family if needed within 24 hours.
I saw a piece today that suggests the new variant in Brazil may infect 60+% of those who already had a confirmed SARS-Cov-2 infection. I saw a piece about Texas opening up 100% maskless. All I can do is mentally add another month, another year, when we will still not be able to go anywhere and I will still mostly live in a 2x2ft square on the left side of our couch as I have for over a year now.
I know I really shouldn’t complain. Our situation has been much, much better than the vast majority of the world for the duration of this pandemic, with the only exception being the very beginning stage of the outbreak when people thought China would be the most dangerous place to be. We have both kept our income. We have a place to live. We have a beautiful, healthy son. We have skype and Facebook and maybe at some point this year we could even have a vacation as a family. There is so much to be happy about.
I just can’t stop thinking about the world that would be.