It’s still lockdown.
I figured we’d do our part. We started staying home pre-emptively. I’ve been inside my property for 8 weeks, 1 day, 9 hours and 22 minutes.
I haven’t been to town. I haven’t even met the new owners of the shop less than 2 km from our gate. I don’t know if the traffic light in the main road is still down. I haven’t had a Seattle coffee from Caltex. And I don’t mind. Not leaving my house is better than I could ever anticipate.
It’s the other members of the household. They never leave either. They are on top of me – all the time. When I need space, we play hide-and-seek. We’ve played ten years’ worth of hide-and-seek already. They’re suspecting my ulterior motives and recently started putting a time limit down when it’s my time to seek. As for the hiding… there is literally and figuratively speaking nowhere for me to hide anymore.
The kids often call my name four hundred sixty seven times per day.
Sometimes I ignore their calls the same way they do mine. But they are more persistent and their voices tend to reach that pitch all moms wish to avoid. I can’t win at this game.
I am the mother, sometimes the father, the teacher (of three different grades, across two different schools), the routine-preacher, the pet carer, the water bearer, the sandwich maker, the compulsive baker, the washer and cleaner, the sibling-intervenor, the gardener, the misdemeanour pardoner, the greywater tank emptier, the garden-walk-sightseer, the rubbish bin dragger, the sit-and-concentrate-on-your-schoolwork-nagger, the personal assistant to everyone, the person to pretend this is fun… Sometimes I’m even the wife. And all of this while singing kiddies’ songs on repeat in my head.
But things aren’t all bad.
I sleep late. And oh, do I make the most of that privilege. I’ve always expected this day to finally come along only once all my little birdies have left the nest. Or when I finally build up the guts to get myself involved in a very minor accident. Not enough to leave permanent damage. Just enough to be admitted to hospital for a few days. And I’ll pretend to be in a coma whenever visitors come. I’ll relish in their epiphanies of how much I’ve contributed to their lives and how my household is falling apart without me there. And I’ll sleep. I’ll sleep until my medical aid won’t cover the hospital stay any longer…
But there’s no need for such drastic measures. Covid-19 has it all covered. No rushing out of bed to make school lunch boxes and begging kids to get dressed. I am now sleeping until the sun is up. And it is amazing.
Sometimes the late mornings backfire. I had a Whatsapp call with a teacher the other day – at 8:30. It was awkward. I had to move the camera around a lot, so she wouldn’t catch a glimpse of my face and realise I still have the out-of-bed look. I ended up faking bad signal and switched the camera off.
To achieve these valuable lie-ins, we all go to bed really late. It does mean that I forfeit any possibility of enjoying a little television alone time or getting personal admin done after hours, but if it’s a toss-up, I’ll always choose lazy mornings. We’ll reset our routine clock again when the world finally resets back to normal life.
I actually get a lot done every day. Between the hours and hours and hours of schooling, I also managed to complete all the outstanding taxes and have ticked off over a page of small print to-do items. Sure, most days I don’t have time to shave or enjoy a cup of hot coffee, but it’s all about priorities. I don’t want to feel in debt to myself when lockdown is over. Getting backburner chores done is trumping putting on make-up or brushing hair.
Until my eldest told me that I look like “a real woman” this weekend, as I was putting on fresh day clothes and some make-up for the first time since lockdown. Cheeky.
Cheeky, but true. Maybe it’s time to turn my attention from the to-do list to the me-list.
It will happen now. I’m going to shave and maybe even pluck my eyebrows.
I saunter upstairs. Not like in a sexy, hip swaying way. More like in a my-hips-haven’t-quite-adjusted-to-the-new-weight (going upstairs) kind of way. It leads my thoughts to the bathroom scale, where I hid it under the bin. It’s been on time-out since lockdown started – same as any form of diet. There’ll be years to make up for the way I’m eating now. I have to work my way through the stockpile of food before the expiration dates. Plus, my kids snack all the time. If you can’t beat them, join them.
I drag out the scale. I hope the battery is flat. It isn’t. I step on very quickly. For some reason, it feels like it’ll display more in my favour if I do it with speed. The number is too high. I step down, tap-tap it a few times with my foot and step on again – a little slower this time. Maybe the momentum of jumping on so fast pushed the number up. Same result. Can’t be. I step down, move the scale forwards and backwards a little. On again. Scrunch my nose up in disgust. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been (apart from being pregnant). How’s that possible if I don’t even feel that much fatter. Is this how easy it is to get used to a new clothes’ size?
I look at myself in the mirror. Yip, I am older too. Like, visibly a little older than before lockdown. I knew home schooling would take its toll. I just figured it’ll end with my lightly strangling a child, but the wrinkles that seamingly appeared overnight are definitely leaving more permanent emotional scars. I carefully make my various favourite facial expressions to see which one is the culprit. Well, the wrinkles are not from laughing. Clearly, where my kids make their marks, they’re for real. So much for letting my skin breathe without make-up for the past few weeks. So much for expecting at least a little ‘glow’ if my body is going to take on pregnancy shape.
My hair looks dull too. I narrow my eyes and slowly move closer to the mirror to see if I can spot any grey hair. I realise my mistake and retreat before I get close enough for my deteriorating eye sight to spot any. Rather not go there now. I reach for a pot of hair mask. “To revitalise tired hair.” They should’ve added “and soul”. I leave it on for twice as long, in the hope of doubling the result.
I rinse out what could’ve been pure fat. I don’t know what’s worse – the fact that the hot water is now almost finished and my hair is still oily, or that the entire shower floor is covered with hair. I remind myself that I haven’t really brushed my hair in days, so it’s just a normal, yet accumulated hair loss. The water is rising. Of course, the drain is blocked. The fat plus the cooled water plus the excessive hair down the drain don’t make a great combination. I kick the hair carpet away from the drain and try to scoop the water towards the outlet to encourage flow. I am flat on the floor, rapidly making circles with my hand to create a vortex. The hair forms a pile the size of a small rat. Better take the rest of it out of the drain while it’s still reachable. I unscrew the drain plug and luckily see only a few strands. I pull them out. The few strands are followed by a long dreadlock, covered in sludge, decorated in solid bits that I don’t even want to imagine how they got in there. I throw up a little in my mouth. I chuck the dreadlock onto the hair rat.
I’m still down on the floor. The water is cold. I should rephrase – I’m just down, point. I quickly do a self-check and comparison with what I’m reading online. There are many posts about moms breaking down during lockdown – lots of reference to getting emotional, crying over spilled milk. (Well, I guess, under the circumstances, spilled milk would literally be a reason to cry.)
“I shared a post on Facebook recently about a woman that sounds like she’s not coping. I received quite a few messages from concerned Facebook friends. However, it wasn’t my personal post. The lady in the post has five kids, of which one is a baby. Not the same person, yet people just assumed I’m talking about myself. I guess that’s how we digest media these days. It’s a blurred line between your own thoughts and what’s just being shared and forwarded from others. But some posts are real and really scary. Some Facebook friends had babies during lockdown. Some lost parents. There are real life dramas going down inside other people’s homes and we only see the glimpses of what their Facebook posts allow. I shouldn’t be down. It could’ve been worse. At least my child didn’t poop in the shower while the drain is blocked. At least I still have hair – of a colour that doesn’t require regular salon visits, which I now wouldn’t be able to rely on. At least my pajamas are still loose fitting. At least…” I should stop right there. I’m talking to a hair rat.
I reach for a towel. I instinctively smell it. Nothing as bad as getting bud on a clean face. I realise that I’ve been smelling everything lately. The dish cloths, to check if they can last another round. The kids’ underwear from the floor, to check if they can’t please do another round. The leftovers I stored in the fridge, to check if they can be tonight’s round. The pillow cases before I go to bed, to see whether they should be turned around… I think that’s actually what I miss most – not having to smell home items before daring to use them.
I pick the hair rat up by its tail, try my best to avoid smelling it, put it in the bin, and place the bin back on top of the scale – hard. Where it’ll stay.
Well, at least my fatty hair smells nice.