For six months we’ve been keeping our Australian community safe by observing all sorts of new practices and making many adjustments to our daily lives. We invited children’s author and illustrator Jess Racklyeft to keep us informed of her experiences living in inner-city Melbourne in a postcode that has been locked down, with curfews and other tight restrictions. It’s been a long lockdown with young children, but while the strain is showing, so is the appreciation for all the blessings that spring might bring.
Here we are – halfway through our stage four, six-week lockdown, in a tough, tough year. Spring is almost shimmering in the air and the daily virus numbers are dropping, and we ask ourselves – can we allow hope, are we almost “there” – wherever there is? Can we expect school to return next term? Can we visit bookshops and open the locked playgrounds? Can we enter someone else’s house for a cup of tea and perhaps an exhausted cry?
I can’t answer this – I expect most of us won’t until the brink of stage four is over. But I’m going to indulge myself in dreaming up the pleasures of life that I will never again take for granted:
- I want to hear the sound of my kids playing with other kids. Their whole world has been shrunk to the size of our house.
- A wine by a fire, in someone else’s backyard.
- A long drive. With podcasts and open roads, and new vistas and places… which rolls onto:
- A holiday – an Airbnb in the forest, where you can look out a window and see only trees.
- School. Oh yes, this would tick a lot of boxes – I could work without interruption, and not battle with keeping a preschooler and early primary schooler on zoom calls and learning division whilst feeding pets, ordering groceries and fending off work emails.
- Libraries. Oh libraries, and free books, and sitting somewhere quiet for a bit, and being transported even further through away, through the pages of a new book.
- Shops – our brief, rather stressed runs to the supermarket can be happily replaced with slow perusals at all the local businesses again, bookshops, op shops, and homewares I can’t afford.
- Picnics. With several friends and a shared blanket.
- Long conversations with mates, in person, in a restaurant, with delicious food I didn’t cook.
- Visiting a beach, which is most definitely more than 5km from here.
- Family time, seeing grandparents and cousins and uncles and aunties.
- A hug (or even just a good back pat!) with loved ones, outside of our family of four.
Funnily enough, dreaming up future plans is the theme of the book I’m about to have published. Welcome Baby, To this World was written and illustrated by me just before this crazy Covid life began – and was all about a parent’s dreams and plans for their child:
Welcome, baby, to this world
Lashes long and fingers curled.
Dreaming stories for our years
Whispered words to tiny ears.
It is all about the love built through tiny adventures and moments, like gumboot walks and skimming rocks and watching the moon rise. And while I appreciate tiny, beautiful moments are still here, it seems like a good time to dream bigger as spring approaches. One thing I know for sure – I’ll be so much for grateful for the things I missed, both big and small, once they’re returned.
Jess Racklyeft is an author and illustrator based in Melbourne. Her new book “Welcome Baby To This World” is out now with Affirm Press and available at your local bookshop.