I write from Melbourne, a weary city in our third week of second lockdown in 2020. You can see those tired concerned eyes, peeping above the face masks we are all wearing. My husband (a teacher) and I have two children, 5 and 8. We’re all missing work, school and daycare, but mostly, our friends. Like most people, we have bunkered down, with short, mask-covered breaks to get some air and exercise with the pooch – who is the only one loving this year!
I began our second lockdown with some enthusiasm. I figured we’d done lockdown before, and this time I could do it better. But within a week, our indoor games were wearing thin, and we were already missing playdates and adventures beyond our neighbourhood, into our beloved, colourful city. If anything, this time is harder. Reality has set in. The novelty of Zoom calls has worn out, The daily briefings on COVID numbers hasn’t been hopeful and there is more anxiety in the air.
However, my kids have astounded me – they seem to cope with it all a lot better than I do. We’ve been glittering dragons for the window (the Little Bookroom is running a #spreadmagicnotgerms campaign), discovered a hidden swing in our local bush reserve, and even birthdays planned with big Pokemon parties have been happily replaced with a Coles ice cream cake and Bluey fest. Although they ask regularly “when is the virus going to go” they say they really love being at home with us more, and I’m going to hope that our time together is their strongest memory of this strange year in years to come.
The coping mechanisms I finally worked out during the first lockdown have kicked in already. Less wine, more jogs – loosening up about homeschool (encouraging our kid to apply her English classes to a presentation about our beloved new pet chickens), and not fitting in all my illustration work after the kids crash. My Melbourne friends are all going through different stages of the “corona coaster” but we are also checking in on each other more, knowing how hard some of the days last time were, and how lonely it can be. We are trying to support our local shops and restaurants for gifts and tasty doorstop delivered dinners when we need a cooking break. The cafes still remain open for necessary coffee stops on those masked walks, and every day we check those COVID rates – and we keep our fingers crossed the numbers will drop.
Dr Veela Janakiramanan wrote on Twitter, “Notable that after about twenty seconds of whinging, Melbournians have emerged in public today sporting their boutique, fair trade or homemade vintage single origin perfectly colour coordinated and stylish face masks as if we have always worn them”. This perfectly sums up our wonderful, sometimes ridiculous city – those eyes may be tired, but those masks are bright – and we are giving a muffled “good morning” as we walk past each other, underneath them.
– Jess Racklyeft is an author and illustrator based in Melbourne. Her next book, Welcome Baby to this World is filled with love, hope and possibility and is out with Affirm Press in September.