Róisín Ingle: There’s something in the early summer air – the beginning of the end

In the gradual lifting of lockdown, we at last have something to look forward to

‘Next month, we can look forward to hugs with our older relatives, if they live close enough. And then – sing hosannas! – July 20th will arrive, a sacred day that surely should be pronounced a Holy Day of Obligation.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

‘Next month, we can look forward to hugs with our older relatives, if they live close enough. And then – sing hosannas! – July 20th will arrive, a sacred day that surely should be pronounced a Holy Day of Obligation.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

My mother escaped for a walk. The first one in far too many weeks. I am dying to give her a hug but almost as satisfying was knowing she was outside in a green space somewhere, the three small, cooped-up grandchildren she’s been cocooning with running wild around her, scrambling up trees.

I video called her, because that’s what we do now instead of visiting the people we love most in the world. She told me one of the granddaughters had fallen out of a tree. My lovely little niece had both the bump and the survivor’s smile to prove it.

My eyes filled, stupidly moved by the ordinariness of a longed-for moment.

July 20th will arrive, a sacred day that surely should be pronounced a Holy Day of Obligation

You can feel it, can’t you? There’s something in the early summer air. We are a long way from this being over but is it too much to hope we might have reached the long beginning of the end?

We’ll be living alongside the brutal realities of this virus – the dead, the dying, the fear, the loss – for many more days and weeks and months, but with news of the painfully gradual lifting of lockdown we have something, at last, to look forward to.

Like Leo Varadkar with his – completely justifiable, if you ask me – lockdown crib sheet, we’re figuring out what it means for the next part of our pandemic life. The first hopeful happening is getting outside our 2km, discovering the delights of the 5k circle around our homes.

Next month, we can look forward to hugs with our older relatives, if they live close enough. And then – sing hosannas! – July 20th will arrive, a sacred day that surely should be pronounced a Holy Day of Obligation: the hairdressers and barbers across the land will open, welcoming the grey-rooted, split-ended, bushy bearded, badly-cut fringed, hooded masses yearning for a Good Hair Day.

Let’s hope Eoghan Murphy is allowed to skip the queue.

Hankering after appointments

I’m spontaneous by nature. I enjoy living in the moment, but I’ve been hankering after some appointments to keep that don’t just involve firing up my computer and checking myself out on a screen. I’m sick and tired of looking at myself, to be honest.

The Gruffalo family calendar on the wall, recently turned to the month of May, is completely blank. No work events. No school bake sales. No choir practice. No playdates. No sleepovers. No weekends away. We haven’t thought to fill it with the Zoom dates that have replaced the real live happenings – choir practice and drama and even dance lessons are still happening online.

We haven’t decorated it with details of our daily State-sanctioned exercise jaunts. They don’t seem like proper appointments, but of course they are. I need to get used to putting them in the calendar.

We’ve started meditating occasionally, as a family

Life has gone on. We’ve all “pivoted”, I think that’s the word. But the time has come to “pivot” back, at least in tiny increments, in the direction of the way we were.

I hope it’s not too soon to admit this, but there are some things, some positive parts of this lockdown experience, that I don’t want to pivot away from. Apart from the tantrums, meltdowns and screaming matches – I’ve apologised for all of it, and my family have been very forgiving – there is a new sort of calm in our house that comes from not having endless places to be.

I don’t miss the often traumatic modern dance of getting out of the door with shoes that match and with the right books/bags/sports gear.

We hardly use the car at all now. We cycle much more. We are all planting things we never thought to put in the ground. My daughters are already looking up recipes for when their radishes are ready. We’ve started meditating occasionally, as a family. We’re watching movies together, more often than we used to, playing more games.

Opening ceremony

We had a World Cup of an air hockey game called Klask with an opening ceremony and medal podiums. Quality time is happening every single day, not just at weekends.

The lockdown is not a great leveller, because as usual the most vulnerable have been hammered most, but what it has done is increased the sense of community and chipped away at that “I’m all right, Jack” attitude that creeps into any modern society. These days we’re more “I’m just about coping, Jackie. But tell me, how are you?”

I watch groups of socially-distanced friends in the park, eavesdropping on their chats

When I’m out and about, I feel a closeness to strangers even with the distance we are all carefully keeping from one another. Down near the river, a stranger on the phone smiles at me while she tells her friend “no, not there, I’m at Luke Kelly’s head”.

I watch groups of socially-distanced friends in the park, eavesdropping on their chats, happy that they are getting to connect. I watch a small girl with stabilisers on her bike circle the park’s perimeter, round and round, happy in her face mask. And a gorgeous little boy we don’t know, called Oliver, shouts “ready, steady, go” as my daughters roll down hills to make him laugh.

It’s the long beginning of the uncertain end. A summer when we can start to take tentative steps back to familiarity. Let’s not leave everything behind.