Destination normal for this year’s family holiday

We had a staycation in the purest sense of the word. It was escapism at its finest

 Dublin Zoo reopens to the public with an initial trial period of two sessions per day with a maximum of 500 persons each.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Dublin Zoo reopens to the public with an initial trial period of two sessions per day with a maximum of 500 persons each. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

I should hold my hands up and accept a degree of responsibility for the recent dreadful weather. To be more precise it’s my husband’s fault. He decided to take his two weeks holidays from work.

There were no exotic trips to be cancelled. Before the pandemic, we had been wrestling with ways to afford a holiday with my large brood that didn’t entail a full remortgage of the family home. We hadn’t yet uncovered one, and for the first time in many years it proved a relief that we’d been priced out of the foreign holiday market.

Things weren’t looking much better at home, so a staycation in the purest form of the word, right here in the house we live in, was planned instead.

Having put up with mammy almost losing her reason on a daily basis as she wrestled with homeschooling, her own work, and the general mayhem that comes with trying to keep an array of ages occupied and safe at the same time, the children were looking forward to fun daddy being at home. “It’s going to be so much fun. I can’t wait,” was the message from one or other child in the week leading up to it.

“It’ll be great,” I replied, and only a little bit through gritted teeth. Mild resentment aside, I was looking forward to having an extra pair of hands around the place for a couple of weeks.

And right on cue, the heavens opened on his first day off.

It’s a perennial favourite with my children, and the adults of the house too, if truth be told

My children have given up sleeping over the course of the pandemic. Bedtimes have fallen by the wayside, beautifully complimenting the disappearance of the rest of their normal routine. Not only does it mean they’re always there, always looking for snacks and drinks and coming up with new ways to avoid the land of slumber, they’re also a degree wasp-ier because they’re tired. Tired and frustrated, not only from lack of sleep, but also lack of normality.

So we planned to do lots of normal things from the start. One was a trip to the zoo. It’s a perennial favourite with my children, and the adults of the house too, if truth be told. One of the highlights for the children is generally watching their bird-fearing mother recoil in horror every time she spots a peacock. But this time there was a new fascination – a story that has been relived over and over again since our visit, and told countless times to all who’ll listen: “You wouldn’t believe how much a rhino pees”.

There was disappointment that the playgrounds and the indoor houses, such as the reptile house, remained closed, but the urinating rhino almost made up for it. It was a different experience to usual, but isn’t everything in coronavirus times?

Much anticipated later that same week was a Jolly Boys Outing, modelled on a favourite TV programme in the house, Only Fools and Horses. Wexford was the destination of choice for my father, his sons-in-law and his older grandsons. My dad made the sandwiches. He said it was to help out. But we all know it’s because he doesn’t trust any food the rest of us make. Covid-19 can’t change all practices, it seems.

Normal was the destination this year. The normal of old, in the ways we never considered. Escapism at its finest

As pictures arrived in via Whatsapp throughout the day of nine boys and men having the best craic, playing football on the beach, it was hard not to smile. And when one arrived in of my dad, feet in the air, having chased after the ball but ended up on his backside, it seemed for a little while at least, escapism was a possibility.

I realised how much their escapism meant to me too. “I feel really content for the first time in ages” I said to my husband as I sat down with a glass of wine to watch television that evening. “It has been lovely to have some normality in our lives again.”

A reunion with my children’s other set of grandparents also finally took place. It wasn’t long until the months that passed were forgotten and all was as normal. So normal in fact, that my mother in law, obey-er of all public health advice and recommendations, went to kiss me goodbye when leaving.

We may not have managed a holiday in the traditional sense in 2020, but we were lucky enough to be able to take a break from Covid-19 for glorious days at a time.

Normal was the destination this year. The normal of old, in the ways we never considered. Escapism at its finest.

I highly recommend it.

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