3 months ago

A Reader Writes: A Letter To My Daughter


Wednesday May 27 2020

Total Confirmed Cases – 24,803

Total Deaths – 1,631

Dear Naoise,

Day 82 of lockdown. 81 days since you were in the crèche, with your little pals, and 81 days since I was in the office, with my bigger pals.

As I write this, I imagine a day in the future, where you turn to me, maybe researching a project for school or just curious about the past. You are at least ten. Maybe twelve, and we celebrate ten years from the vaccine. What was it like, Mam? And I shake my perfectly blow-dried hair, (it’s this detail of the future I allow myself luxuriate in) and think back to now or to the end of now, allowing myself to imagine a world where this is the history, this is the past.

I sometimes wonder though, am I naïve in writing about now? Should it really have been the before, that I documented? Will your life now not be for you as I imagined it, when you grew for exactly 40 weeks in me? Will it be that life, that you search to learn about in history books or online? Will you actually want to see the pictures of your dad and I among 175,000 others at Glastonbury, J1 pictures where eight of us slept in one bedroom, images of hundreds of students doing exams together in the RDS, public transport without face masks, or learn about a time when doctors waiting rooms existed? Will you never kiss the Blarney Stone, get hugs from people you didn’t want to hug anyway, go to Croke Park for an All-Ireland final or go to a big Irish wedding or funeral?

Will you never know what it is like, to properly celebrate the life of a loved one passed, with all your friends and family.

Should this have been the time I documented for you?

But if it is not, and if our life does return to a meaning of the word normality that we can identify with, and if you do turn to me and ask me that question, what will I say?

I will pause, as I recall the mixed emotions that I process now, as I think of how to paint a clear picture for you to understand how it was and to understand that how it was for us was not how it was for so many others.

I will tell you how there was much tragedy and loss of life, 1,631 peoples’ lives lost in Ireland to this day, whose families may not have been allowed the opportunity to properly grieve them.

I will tell you about the job losses and the many, many other difficult situations, but I will also tell you about the light. Where I saw the light and how you gave us light.

I will tell you about the day you saw your cousin Aoibhinn, for the first time in ten weeks in our garden, and the absolute joy that lit up both your little faces and how heartbroken you both were again to part.

I hope to be able to tell you that when restrictions lifted we road-tripped to visit both sets of grandparents. All together again, we celebrated how the lockdown had kept us all safe and how much you had grown in that time.

I will tell you how it taught us all to be human again, how we learned as communities, towns, cities and countries to see one another, to look out for one another and to care for one another.

I will tell you about the job losses and the many, many other difficult situations, but I will also tell you about the light. Where I saw the light and how you gave us light.

I will tell you about the deeper connections that were made at work with colleagues and clients, as barriers were broken down. Virtually, we let each other into our homes and into our lives. Meeting children, parents or pets. We saw the inside of living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. We enjoyed seeing plants, furniture, the colour of backdrop walls and embarrassing family photographs. We got to know the people and the lives behind the people we knew. The shadows or joys outside the workplace, unashamedly becoming part of the normal working day. People became fuller versions of themselves, no longer having to hide behind a professional front, no longer a pressure to be just their LinkedIn profile.

And I will tell you that we were very lucky and how it was mostly very good for us, and how we loved watching you grow up.

You are 18 months now. Since returning to work after maternity leave, I hated not having you with me at all times. I really yearned for you in a way I could never have predicted, before having met you. I used to look across the water at your crèche from the office window and it pained me to think of you over there, maybe looking back out the window for me. I would imagine you everywhere, on the office floor, at my desk or in meetings. I imagined you there, at work with me, and incredibly, here you now are.

You have cried and needed me at the most opportune times (when I ran out of things to say during a presentation) and inopportune times (when I needed to write an urgent report). We have practised your words together as I sat on team calls. You have learned to watch television (a convenient babysitter), to kick a ball and to open the stair gate. And for that time together, I am so grateful.

You are still so little.

Tonight, I met up with my schoolfriend and her sister. We sat together, apart, on the grass on the seafront, relishing in the delight of in-person conversations. We talked about how work was going, the books we were reading, Conall in Normal People and where to buy children’s clothes online. We talked about conspiracy theories and when it might be safe to visit our parents in Meath, when it might be safe to go back to work, when it might be safe for the creches to reopen.

When it might be safe.

Because despite the distractions we might have, with work, family life, gardening and baking (that one is a lie really but I feel like I need to say it because everyone else is doing it), the reality still is that there is no security yet in how safe the future will be as the country begins to open back up. The daily numbers on the Nine O’Clock News have become as normal as getting the temperatures afterwards from Jean. (Although there is nothing normal about the temperatures we are getting.)

17 more deaths today. The numbers are getting lower yes, but that is still 17 lives, 17 more people than we have had visit our house in the last 82 days. Behind every number, a person.

All that is within our control though, is to stay within the guidelines and to focus on each day as it comes brightly into our bedroom. How we have been blessed with this weather!

And all I can do, is focus on you.

You did say giraffe, today, didn’t you? I know you did. Clever girl.

Follow Ruth on Instagram: @thismomentyoga


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