Freedom at last – then half the house tested positive

Mum taxi and chief run-arounder found herself housebound for seven days

More than once during lockdown I chastised myself for all the pre-pandemic nights I’d stayed in when I could have gone out. Of course, these were theoretical occasions. The reality was life was crazy busy in pre-pandemic times too and sometimes all I was fit for at the end of a long week was collapsing on the couch with a glass of red and defending my decision to watch The Late Late Show.

But when the chance arose, to get out with a friend I hadn't seen in months, I was out that door quicker than you could say "who's on with Ryan Tubridy tonight".

And it was fabulous. Normality is seriously under-rated. The buzz of a crowded restaurant and the ability to go to the bar to order a drink, were just two of the things that were noticeably normal – so normal it felt wrong.

Which, of course, it would when you think of the surreal two years we’ve had. Waving at people from across the street, but not daring to stop and chat. Unable to travel more than 2km from our homes. Not seeing loved ones for months, and more, on end. Pregnant women attending appointments alone and sometimes receiving the worst news without their partners. Devastated families grieving without the usual supports. Families unable to visit loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes. Children seen as vectors and refused entry to some shops. Queues outside grocery stores and not a packet of pasta or a loo roll to be had. Schools closed for months on end. Cancelled celebrations and missed rites of passage. Activities gone. Sports gone. Nightlife gone. An entire series of Reeling in the Years unto itself.

So it requires a shift in mindset, no matter how eager we were to get back to normal and several times over the course of the night I found myself commenting on how weird and fabulous the return to almost normal was. But then I had to go and tempt fate.

“Oh the relief now that the children can go back to school following a couple of the kids’ encounters with the ’rona, and the others having to repeatedly isolate”, I explained to my friend, family, people I met on the job – basically anyone who engaged with me at any stage over the previous week. Close contact restrictions had proved more stressful than the disease and I was happy to be out of it.

“Aha, hold my beer”, laughed fate as I smugly enjoyed my new-found freedom.

And so it came to pass, that Covid took me and the remaining children down. One by one we fell like dominoes over the course of a single evening. Some of us with the sudden onset of symptoms, but most without even a hint that the plague had hit until the dreaded two lines showed up on the antigen tests.

And I was ragin’. First, because my parents had visited the day before, with a lasagne for the superheroes et al, who they hadn’t seen since Christmas. “I’ve had the Covid, Nana, it was grand,” the Hulk said, referring to his experience earlier that month, before launching himself at her, secure in the knowledge that he wasn’t going to pass anything on to her.

Second, the dread that one child would miss his mock exams. Only one of us, however, seemed perturbed by this.

And beyond those worries there was the realisation that not only were we several soldiers down at the one time, we were a mum down too. School runs, appointments, work schedules, training sessions – everything suddenly thrown into disarray as mum taxi and chief run-arounder found herself housebound for seven days. Seven long days. I dreaded the thought of it – how quickly I’d got used to my freedom after all. Himself was going to have to work from home and pray that, as the last person standing, any positives coming his way hung on until my quarantine was over.

And so plans were temporarily cancelled, not indefinitely this time, but annoyingly so all the same. The irony of the situation was not lost on me. We’d tried to avoid it for so long but, by virtue of the mild dose we were lucky enough to experience, catching Covid, rather than vaccination, has finally put an end to my children having to repeatedly miss school due to close contact rules which take no account of the vaccination status of under 16s. It’s almost as if children were overlooked, again.

It’s only seven days I remind myself.

At least I can savour near-normality again when it’s over – well, when my taste properly returns that is.

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