Bare Legs, Brambles, and Broken Glass

This morning I woke up really late, after not be able (willing!) to fall asleep last night. There was sunshine for the first time in ages, I heard a basketball bouncing, I heard my children shouting and my wife laughing.

My FOMO kicked in, and I threw a fleece robe over my bare body, slipped on some Crocs, grabbed a coffee, and went outside. I’m nothing if not classy. I sat on some inherited-from-my-sister wicker furniture, which is in an awkward bit of my garden. As in, a foot away and facing our greenhouse, which got broken in the last major storm. So broken glass carefully picked up and on the wall behind me, the greenhouse’s snarl of brambles now exploding out of the broken pane, and my naked ass sat out in that sunshine.

It’s not a bad place to start over.

My wife was trying to do more clearing of our personal jungle – I started earlier in the week, arms shaking from the weight of whatever you call those giant clipper things, leaving brambles all over the ground and trampoline. The kids were cleaning off the trampoline. Here we all were, on the sixth morning of our self isolation due to the Coronavirus.

Last week we started social distancing. Thursday we went to a remote part of Wales and down a mine with friends. Friday we went to the park. We were skipping all classes at that point, but still around people. Saturday was the last really risky day – one child at her beloved drama school, the other at his newly found basketball classes. It was too much for me. I was done.

Sunday Suzy and I were meant to go to Story Slam, which is a really great monthly event here in Bristol. Each month has a theme – origins, pride, growth, fire – and anyone can put their name in the hat for a chance to tell a five minute true story about their life, or fill in an anonymous slip to be read out. I’ve done both several times, and while I love being on stage, I also always walk away feeling really privileged to have heard other people’s stories. So it was a wrench to cancel that event and stay home, though the kids went to their grandparents for a couple of hours. I don’t think I really understood that that would be the last time they saw these five-minute-away grandparents for many weeks, many months, perhaps a year and a half.

Monday Suzy went to work. Monday night I told her I couldn’t take it anymore. By then, scientific reports were making the situation pretty clear, as was the horror stories coming from Italy.

Tuesday she stopped going to work; she’s lucky to be able to work from home, for now. Wednesday, her company moved to having everyone work from home. She went out Tuesday morning to pick up some supplies, but myself and the kids have solidly been in since late Sunday afternoon.

With the many (too little, too late) government announcements this week, slowing society down step by step, it was made clear that anyone in a high risk group needs to self isolate for an initial period of twelve weeks. I *think* that starts Monday, but for us it’s happening already. Two of us have (mild) asthma, but one of us has strong enough anxiety that she (spoiler: me) is taking the self isolation thing seriously. I don’t want to take risks; I don’t want to expose other people to risk.

I didn’t know where to start this post. With my twenty four hour mini breakdown earlier this week, with that evening I couldn’t stop crying? With taking up cross stitching in an effort to stop picking up my phone and becoming overloaded? With the walk I took with my family one night, where we didn’t see another living soul?

Or maybe this:

We had a delivery dropped off a couple of days ago. I opened the door, explained we were self isolating, and just asked the man to please put the delivery on the floor. He asked if we were okay and wished us the best. He started back to his car, then turned and asked if we needed anything. We did. Milk. And a cucumber, the mainstay of one of my children’s diets.

He asked me to give him ten minutes. I ran around, digging for the change to pay him. Then I heard the knock at the door.

I opened it, and he was already driving away, no payment required. He rolled his window down and gave me a big thumbs up, as I shouted, ‘Thank you!’ He left a big four pit of milk and two cucumbers on our doorstep.

People are good. Small acts of kindness help our mental and physical health. Smiling at each other is not in quarantine.

Stay safe and well, all. I have a feeling I’m going to be back here a lot. Please do leave comments, message, whatever. We all need to keep in touch. I’m on facebook as Alison May – you can also find me there at Adventures in Unschooling, which links to my main profile in a few shared places. I’m making a lot of stuff visible publicly. I’m also sporadically on Instagram and Twitter as @alisonmariemay (I won’t be accepting facebook friend requests from people I don’t know or haven’t chatted with, but am always open to a chat in the comments section!) I’ve also caved and downloaded TikTok, which I shamefully love, but I’ve yet to post anything there. However, I have watched a lot of gay men lip synching and people dancing on rollerskates.

What if the future is even better than the past?

There’s something bittersweet about watching my children have these fleeting moments that are echoes of my childhood. I spent virtually every summer on the water, in the water, listening and smelling and loving the water. My grandparents had a boat, and I loved to sit on the front of it while the boat sped along the waves (and looking back, my life was probably at risk! But how wonderful it was.).

We are in America now. My children are on their grandparents’ boat, on the water, in the water. It smells like sunshine and water weeds. They are joyfully piloting the boat, asking to swim in the centre of a lake bigger than they ever knew existed.

It makes me happy; it makes me sad. What sort of life would they have if we lived in America? Specifically, this bit of America with water and huge lakes everywhere, lakes so big they look like the ocean.

I think nostalgia overwhelms me when I get on a boat. I could sit here all day. But I’m wary of letting that nostalgia put this life on a pedestal. Maybe one day my children will be watching their children live the life my kids had when they were little. No regular boats, no jumping off pontoons.

But maybe my future grandchildren will splash along rivers, play deep in the dappled woods, feel the magic of dancing around a campfire as the sun sets. And my kids will look, and sigh, and feel nostalgic and wonder what if, even as my grandchildren create their own childhood memories.

And so the cycle goes.

Never say no to an adventure! 

About a week ago, a friend said, ‘Hey, do you want to go to Spain with us?’ A couple of days after that we were on a plane with her and her adorable kids. 

Today’s our last day here. After a few days of sun and heat, it’s cooler and windy. Obviously we feel at home on cold beaches. Ha. 

  
  
I was worried if I’d cope on my own with the kids. All the bedtimes, all the nighttimes, all the picky eating that new countries and food allergies bring. But you know what?

It’s been a joy. A time out from normal life which has reminded me a bit more of what I’d like normal life to be like, what it once was before all the classes and clubs and meet ups. 

A little bit slower, a little bit more joy and instinct led, a little more flexible. 

Of course, excellent company helps. So does Spanish sunshine and water with lemons picked fresh off a tree. 

  

Perhaps the biggest lesson (and reward) in these past few days comes from the reminder of how good it feels to say a resounding YES whenever you can. 

  

  

We are powerful, out here in the garden.

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Naked children running free out in the sunshine,
and I wonder how anyone could think that shady classrooms,
lining up, sitting in seats, staying still,
is more powerful than light, air, water fights, daisy chains.

We are four.

We are watching that magpie nest in the garden, we are drawing
our own hopscotch. We are watering our seeds,
squealing naked bums against slides,
pouring water onto the grass to make muddy puddles
so we can
SPLASH.

We leave all the doors open so we can wander in and out.

If our friends come over, they wander, too. We are watching clouds,
digging up ants, riding scooters, laughing and running
and chasing each other
and we have the space to be, be, be.

This is exactly where we are supposed to be, at four, outside and
breathing deep.  This is where we draw our power,
where we discover heat and rain and
ourselves.

Spring has sprung!

spring

Today was one of those accidentally perfect days that reminds you how great your life actually is. There was nothing extra special or out of the ordinary; just a lot of nice moments strung together.

So much of the niceness in our life lately is bare feet, sunshine, playing out for hours even though it is still chilly when the wind blows. Even though we got caught in a hailstorm yesterday, even though one minute you’re in a t shirt and the next you shrug a sweater on.

There is mud, and there is that creeping fullness of summer, the feeling that days are long, lazy, full of whatever you want them to be. Everything feels a bit cheerier, a bit more possible.

I sit here just now, home after being out all day. One kid is upstairs waiting for pictures to print so they can be coloured and added to our treasure hunt. The other is sitting outside in the front garden, chattering away in what seems to be an exciting narrative. We spent all early morning outside, running in socks on the damp grass. Then the biggest chunk of the day at a friend’s house, and the late afternoon outside at a farm playground with friends. It was all sorts of casual, I had a chance to really talk with my friends (the kids and the grown ups!), M and S got to spend some good time with their friends, and I spent the afternoon laughing with the sun in my eyes rather than sitting indoors eyeing the clock. We went out for a ‘sneaky dinner,’ and came back to this resumption of individual projects and peace.

See? Perfect.