Time stops, but weird carries on

By Elspeth Tory

Spring of 2020 has certainly been one to remember and possibly one we all want to forget. At this writing, we are heading into week 12 of the COVID-19 lockdown. School has been officially cancelled for the year and though some restrictions are easing, it is becoming increasingly clear that we are nowhere near going back to life as we knew it. I had read that the feeling of grief we are experiencing is the “death of the myth of certainty.” We don’t know when or how this will all end, and even the most enthusiastic of optimists – that’s me – cannot cheerlead our way out of this mess. We are here, stuck in “todestermorrow” for the foreseeable future. Still, I know that living in a comfortable house with a yard and food in the fridge, I am exceedingly lucky.

I look at my family calendar, which is usually chock-full of daily activities. It is completely blank, save for a birthday or two. Virtual work meetings and some online learning for the kids are the only events in today’s unofficial schedule.

Homeschooling has been a huge adjustment. I think most families began with a decent amount of energy, but they have now been worn down by a never-ending stream of virtual meetings, worksheets and app downloads, all of which need to be coordinated while trying to work from home. I channelled my frustration into the unofficial launch of the “Good Enough Academy” and invited all parents to join on Facebook. Uniforms are banned, pants are optional and teachers can day-drink without judgement.

Our first homeschool crisis of the day is a broken printer. Five pages of worksheets are required for my daughter’s 10 a.m. Zoom class. Forty-five minutes later, I’ve rebooted every device, downloaded a new driver and come close to drop-kicking my ancient Canon inkjet out the window before it finally whirrs into action. A warning pops up to let me know I’m almost out of ink, giving me a small window into the joy that tomorrow holds.

My Grade 2’s English assignment for the week is to write a limerick. He watches a video the teacher has sent to explain how to write one while I try to get some work done. It becomes increasingly clear that he does not understand, so I offer him one of my own:

“There once was a virus named COVID
And on our small world it exploded
So everyone stayed
Inside and dismayed
And all they could do was get loaded.”

“AA-BB-A. See?” He stares at me, confused, but eventually pens something about our cat. His completed limerick will need to be uploaded to his Google classroom, a seemingly simple task. But Google keeps mixing up our logins and advising me that I don’t have a classroom – would I like to set one up? I try this a few times, yell at the computer, then decide to save this exciting task for later today.

There have been some unexpected benefits to the lockdown. With more time at home, the kids have now mastered making their own French toast, pancakes, scrambled eggs and grilled cheese. Anything that keeps them off their screens is a welcome distraction, and they seem to relish the newfound freedom. Their skills appear to be improving, judging by how little our smoke detector has gone off this week. The afternoon rolls on, and I load and unload the dishwasher for what seems like the third time today. I attempt to teach my son about fractions (almost as fun as stabbing your eye with a fork). Upstairs, my daughter is closed in her room doing a virtual hip hop class with KV Dance.

Throughout the day, I am endlessly asked, “Can I have a snack?” The kids have learned that the potential for an affirmative answer increases significantly if they ask during a work call.

I listen in on one of my son’s Google classroom chats. The teacher asks them, “If there was one thing you could do right now – anything at all – what would it be?” Answers range from sleepovers and going to the toy store to having play dates. Then one child quietly says, “I’d find a cure for the coronavirus. Then we could all get hugs.” I tear up because hugs and a cure would really be nice right now.

My husband comes home from work at the hospital, and we plan our exciting after-dinner event: his haircut. I’ve enlisted my hairdresser (Eli at Silver Scissors) to coach me over Zoom so that I don’t make a total mess of things. The end result is surprisingly decent. I reward myself with a cocktail for a job well done and take a moment to appreciate just how weird 2020 has become.

I sit with my cocktail and offer a silent cheers to todestermorrow and whatever it holds in store, but not before making sure to order some ink cartridges for curbside pickup tomorrow.

Elspeth Tory is a graphic designer, mother, writer and recent chair of the GNAG board of directors.

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