Dear Kids: Part I

I haven’t been blogging much lately.

Blogging was something I did “before.” It doesn’t feel like something I do “after” — at least, not yet. Not while the world is still on fire. I almost can’t bring myself to look at this 12+ year archive sometimes, written at different times in my life but all of those times are so, so different than what we’re dealing with now.

I haven’t been blogging or DIYing, but I am always, always writing. I have been focusing on my work (blessedly almost back to normal levels) as well as writing my novel (I’m up to 124,000+ words and getting so close). And sometimes I write random notes on my phone that eventually turn into blog posts. Like this.

Here is a note I wrote back in April. Let’s call it Part I …


Dear kids,

I checked your toes and fingers today for purplish lesions. It’s the latest possible symptom of the virus that’s keeping us locked inside, away from school and activities and friends.

I know I should stop reading articles about symptoms and risk factors because they terrify me, but if I stopped I’d worry I might miss something — a warning sign that meant you were sick with “it,” with “the virus,” with the thing I try not to say out loud.

I wonder what you’re remembering about this time, this pandemic, if you read this post in the future.

I know you won’t remember what you didn’t see, like me creeping into your bedrooms at night to make sure you were breathing. To make sure the virus hadn’t somehow stolen you away from me, just because you had a bit of a cough. Silent tears rolling down into my hair, berating myself for not getting refills on the old puffers you’d bad for previous coughs, just in case they would help right now because something HAD to help, right?!

Will you remember how I went crazy buying different kinds of cough syrup, because that’s what they recommended we do in the beginning? And Tylenol — all the Tylenol — because Advil might kill us or something. That was in March, maybe early April.

Oh, and the food. When it became difficult to get things at the grocery store, I went a little nuts stockpiling some basics in a few bags in the basement — crackers, cereal, juice, applesauce, pasta, canned goods. You found it. Mom’s Basement Food, you called it. You thought it was weird and kind of funny. I told you it was because I couldn’t fit it all up in the kitchen, but really it was my secret, scared stash. The food I reasoned we might need if the shelves were bare, in a world where our poor little Superstore was full of smoke and looters and screams.

But wait, you might be asking, food shortages? The whole world shutdown? HOW many people died?! Let me go back to the beginning.

You will have a special name for it now, as you read this. Was the “before” called Pre-Corona, maybe? BC and AC, for Before Corona and After Corona. Maybe just “pre-2020” or “pre-pandemic.”

When it started, we didn’t know our whole world would change. It was just … early March, 2020.

There was a virus infecting a lot of people overseas — China, Italy, Spain — but we felt pretty removed from it all at first. You know I don’t watch the news ever, so I just saw updates here and there on Facebook.

There was talk of people maybe cancelling their March Break trips because travel sounded iffy. People who travelled were getting sick. Not traveling, it seemed, would keep people safe.

We, of course, had no trips planned as we’re not a family who travels on March Break (being an airline employee family who relies on standby fares). No trips, just two prepaid days at day camps — one day of tennis and another of swimming/rock-climbing. You were looking forward to both and didn’t seem to mind (much) we weren’t taking you to somewhere warm, even if it felt like that’s where everyone else was going.

The nerves were slowly building.

Two of our neighbours were considering canceling trips to Mexico that they’d scheduled for over March Break. Travel was still allowed, but it was starting to sound like a bad idea. There were rumours that travellers might have to “self-quarantine” for two weeks once they got back home. We all agreed, standing there at the bus stop, that that sounded awful. Imagine! Being stuck at home for two whole weeks!

(Now it’s almost May and I wonder if people who canceled their mid-March vacations kinda wish they’d gone anyway. In for a penny, in for a pound, you know? At least they’d have made some nice memories before getting locked up like the rest of us. I don’t know.)

I didn’t think the virus worries were affecting me too much. After all, we didn’t have a trip to think about cancelling. But the night before what would become the last day of school for the 2019/2020 year, I had a full-on panic attack disguised as what I thought was a food allergy to the pineapple on Dad’s Hawaiian frozen pizza.

(You know how I always say I *might* be allergic to pineapple because it gives Auntie Lesley a rash when she eats it? Well, I took a bite of your dad’s pizza and proceeded to freak out.) It took a frantic visit to the drugstore (in my PJs) for antihistamines and an hour-long phone call with Auntie Lesley before I could calm down.

Yeah, I was anxious all right — and I’d just gotten a peek at HOW anxious.

On the final morning at the bus stop, we all felt nervous. One neighbour had cancelled their trip and the other was likely going to do it that day. Us non-travellers felt bad for them. It was not a good situation to be in, and we all hated to think of the kids being disappointed.

You went to school for the last day of classes before March Break (well, not you, Charlotte, since you were home sick with a cold) and then you never got to go back. You didn’t get to say goodbye to your teachers and your friends. You just cheerfully left to start your March Break, without any idea your Grade 2 and Grade 4 years were effectively over.

I didn’t know, either. All I knew on that cold, dreary Friday — Friday the 13th, no less, even though those are supposed to be lucky for those of us born on the 13th — was that I was scared. There was a feeling in the air. Palpable nervous energy. I wasn’t the only one who commented on it, at the bus that day. We were all on edge, waiting nervously for the bus to arrive so we could collect our kids and get home. Everything felt … strange.

You were to Auntie Lesley and Uncle Craig’s for the weekend. We’d had it planned for months, only what was supposed to be a fun kickoff to March Break ended up being your last taste of freedom for a very long time.

I cried so much that weekend, either in big hysterical gulps or in slow, silent tears that I couldn’t stop. Looking back, it’s a little surprising I was so upset. We could have done anything that weekend. There were no restrictions of any kind — you could literally do anything you wanted, just probably please maybe don’t travel outside of Canada — but it’s kind of like I could sense what was coming. I was terrified.

School was only cancelled for two weeks at first. March Break, and then two weeks after that. Three whole weeks with no school! We were all still working then, so we groaned at the thought of spending three whole weeks trying to juggle work and childcare.

“I bet they’ll even close the bowling alley!” we moaned. “Maybe even the movie theatre! What are we supposed to do to entertain them?!” We had NO idea how quickly everything would change — how the f*cking bowling alley would not matter in the slightest.

You were happy with the extended March Break. Well, you were, Dexter. You saw it as two extra weeks to relax at home, reading and playing video games. You were disappointed that tennis camp and swimming camp were cancelled, though. Charlotte, you were crushed. You’d already missed the last two days before March Break because of your cold, and you were already desperate to see your friends again. Me? I was just barely hanging in there.

We made it through March Break, albeit without day camps and bowling and Clay Cafe and trips to the movies. Two more weeks to go, I thought.

Two days after March Break ended, I got laid off.

You didn’t know because I never told you. I didn’t want you to worry.

Sure, I could have told you and just reassured you that we’d be fine — I could have been honest with you, like I’m honest about literally everything else, including who buys your Christmas presents and which YouTube dad I think is good-looking — but I wasn’t. You’re smart kids and I have a terrible poker face. You would have immediately seen the tears in my eyes, the worry in my forehead. You would have worried, especially at night when worries are the heaviest anyway. I wanted to protect you.

And so I lied.

I still went to my office every weekday. I cleaned up my accounting files, entering the backlog of invoices and payments. I responded to the emails from editors and clients canceling my freelance work, piece by piece. I researched what kind of benefits I might be able to get, as a strange mix of part-time employee but also self-employed freelancer. I tried to write and couldn’t. I cried. Thankfully, neither of you seemed to notice I wasn’t spending quite as much time in my office. I was barely holding it together around you, and I couldn’t have handled any curious questions.

Since March Break was over, I threw myself into making sure we did some schoolwork every day. Not because you couldn’t afford to miss two weeks of school (all we thought it would be, at the time) but because I didn’t want you slumping in front of YouTube all the live-long day, headphones clamped to your ears.

Two weeks. That’s all we thought it would be.


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