I sleep poorly. At 6:30, I give myself a talking-to. I can’t train due to my injury, but I can train my mind. I decide to create some structure for myself and my kids. I draw up a list of rules that include daily exercise, schoolwork (my son has started online school,) outdoor time, piano practice, and chores. Evenings will be filled with board games and movies. In an effort to create opportunity (I still have the drive to think about opportunity, and I wonder how long this state will last). Borrowing a friend’s idea, I vow to screen classic films for my older kids.
I try to do yoga with my four-year-old, but he sits on my head when I get into downward dog. I allow him to watch a show so that I can practice alone. Thinking of expanding his horizons, I try to persuade him to watch something other than Curious George, his current favourite. No dice. When I try to turn on a new show, he screams.
I choose pseudonyms for all my children. My daughter will be DD, my son DS. My littlest one will go by his nickname, Mouche, the French word for fly. The name comes from a song we used to sing him when he was a baby: Mouche Mouchelette. When I was a kid, my favourite version was sung by Anne Sylvestre.
Yesterday two stores in my neighbourhood ran out of bread. I wanted to bake some but I’d left the yeast at home (as our house is under renovation, we’re living in a rented apartment). I texted a friend who replied: “we’re all going to become homesteaders during this pandemic.” At 8 a.m. the following morning, I ask my middle son to watch Mouche for the first time while I leave the house to shop. I walk into an empty Cobbs, which fills after a few minutes. We scatter about the store, trying to keep a metre between us in the tight space. I buy a loaf, leave, then retrace my steps and buy another for a friend.
I come home, only to have DH text me that Ford has declared a state of emergency. “If you can get groceries now, that would be great.” I leave Mouche with his brother again, shop, return with enough groceries for one week.
In the afternoon DD plays with Mouche so that I can write. I take my journal outside, hoping to find some quiet. People walk about. Most move out of the way as I approach them. Cafés are still open, although the barista at my local café tells me that they will soon close indefinitely. I find a secluded spot near a technical school and settle myself on a bench with my notebook. On a wide slab of pavement at my feet, small children circle on scooters. I try to focus. After a while, it starts to rain, large drops smudging my ink. It’s close to 0 degrees and my hands feel frozen. I give up and walk home.
We Facetime DH. He appears on the screen in his a mask and plastic visor. “Why are you wearing a mask?” asks Mouche. “So I don’t get sick.” I ask him how things are at work. “The calm before the storm,” he replies.
I take Mouche to the playground. We wash our hands regularly so at this point I figure it’s okay (a few days later I will change my mind about the safety of playgrounds, but for now I still think playgrounds are safe, especially if they’re not busy.) I sit and watch him scoot around the park. Mouche wants to socialize, and he sidles up to two older boys taking turns pushing each other on a tricycle. A boy puts a hand on Mouche’s scooter, and I spring up from my seat. “I’m sorry, boys, but we can’t share with our friends today.” They shuffle their feet and stare at me. “Because of the virus,” I say. Feeling like a terribly mean person, I pull out some alcohol wipes and wipe down the handles.
DH comes home from work and makes dinner, then leaves for a second shift at another hospital. I kiss him goodbye. We haven’t had any intimate moments for days – usually we’re so exhausted we can barely speak to each other.
DH comes home sometime in the middle of the night, then leaves again at 6:30 a.m. At breakfast Mouche and I Facetime him: this time DH has removed his mask, and it looks as though he’s speaking to us from a large closet, though it’s probably just a small staffroom.
I make pancakes. I figure if we’re going to be stuck at home, we might as well eat well. I’m grateful that both DH and I are decent cooks, and that we can rustle up a dish from practically any ingredients: the near-empty shelves at the supermarket don’t bother us – at least not yet. Last night I made Poulet Basquaise – a cheap dish of chicken legs, peppers, and a single tomato. When I explained to Mouche that the dish comes from the Basque region of France, he petulantly said: “but I don’t want to go to Poulet Basquaise.”
No more playground.