#15 The pandemic takes away
and it gives ✨
Hello my dearest confidantes,
Never has the title of this newsletter been so relevant than today, on the very last day of the week. A lateness milestone I’ve thankfully taken 15 issues to reach, despite it being very on brand.
This week I’ve barely been thinking at all. My brain has been a pink viscous puddle, a melted Bubble O’ Bill. Just imagine Janelle Monae’s Pink playing over and over and over again as the sun bears down on a perspiring glass of raspberry cordial.
Aside from my body’s ineptitude for heat, manifesting as a heat rash (like a baby), I have been keenly awaiting the arrival of my niece (an actual baby) from Hobart.
The pandemic and the roiling Bass Strait have forced our family into a kind of separation we could never have fathomed. The intense (occasionally dysfunctional) closeness of four loud and opinionated over sharers has been relegated to phone calls and text messages.
(Un)thanks to Melbourne’s sixth lockdown, I missed the latter part of my sister’s pregnancy and I couldn’t be there when she gave birth, although I insisted on FaceTiming the whole thing. And for the first 8 weeks of my niece’s life, she was only as real as the pictures I was sent.
There is no sense of someone you’ve never met. It’s like imagining what it would be like to go to Paris, or the taste of a mango if you’ve never had one. These are visceral things that the brain struggles to paint into realness.
You hold the baby, you smell her head, you kiss her fat cheek. And then she is real.
The arrival of my sister and her baby has been floating above me like a second sun for weeks. The sadness and anger I felt at not being with my only sibling for the birth of her first child felt both insurmountable and trivial. The world has never been so strange and my healthy sister giving birth to a healthy baby in a different state seemed like nothing to be sad about at all. People were missing out on much more and dying altogether.
There are things the pandemic has taken away. For most of us these things are quiet and tender. Like two years in one place. Not eating at restaurants, not meeting new people, not going home, or not getting away from it and wondering how losing time will shake out in the long run. These things are quiet and tender because although they’re happening to you, they’re happening to everyone else too, so it’s big and it’s small. Can you complain about being human?
But at the risk of sounding twee, I think there are things the pandemic has given us too. Like, I’ve never loved my sister more than when I listened to her breathing through her labour from the phone screen in the palm of my hand.
Staying at home these past two years has been achingly boring and just aching, but it’s also been illuminating.
I know there have been painful losses, and for those things I guess it’s a pointless exercise to search for silver linings. When a friend recently frowned at me as I posited the silver linings playbook of a global pandemic, and shook his head “nothing good has come from this”, I realised not everyone feels the same. That’s OK.
But right now I’m signing off, to sit on the back porch with my sister and drink red wine. As the sun goes down. And everything feels better than it has in a long time.