“We are living in dark times,” I whispered to my 9 month old son, as we walked into Game City, in Gaborone, one of the most convenient malls for me to visit as a mom. It has everything I need in one place, banks, grocery stores and pharmacies, and it doesn't hurt that it is close to home.
‘The darkness’, I think to myself, comes up because I had to strap my child's face to my chest, under a scarf, as a means of protection against COVID-19. It is difficult trying to maneuver the head of a small, curious child, who for most of his life has seen only his parents’ faces. Now, I take him to the mall and run into a guy without a mask on or I’m in line with a lady who sneezes, twice, into her mask but does not look away or cover her "flu like symptom". It brings up thoughts of the movie ‘Bubble Boy’ and how maybe he had something good going for himself, living in a sterilized dome; he had the key.
I think about how many hours a day I spend doing what I do, whatever it may be. Some days go by routinely, with nothing exciting about them. Then on other days I have some form of interaction with society; I’m booked, I’m busy and things are working out. Things are great, life happens. And then things begin to fall apart and I have to figure it all out from scratch. Maybe it’s a metaphor about life being a merry-go-round; how things start off thrilling, how they get repetitive and then slow to a halt.
And that’s life. It’s brilliant, then it slaps you with a backhand of something that turns all you know upside down, and you evolve for good. And yet we were used to our merry-go-rounds, we enjoyed our playtime with its ups and downs. Even when we got hurt, we knew we could get back up - for the most part. But what we never thought would happen was not being allowed to even go to the park, see our playmates or even breathe in their direction. That is pretty much what coronavirus did. This time we felt it in waves, all together.
We have a helper that comes to the house on Saturday mornings to do laundry and general cleaning. This seems harmless enough, and yet I can't breathe easy when she is in the room because I'm worried she has multiple jobs and meets many people. Then, when my child is up and active, how do I ask her to keep away? As a mother of four herself, she too knows the effects the pandemic has had on us, our livelihoods. But also, as a mother, she is drawn to the child in her space and instinctively tends to his needs.
The thing is, COVID-19 affects every single human being. And the reality is that we have to be able to act as if we all have it, and play our parts in keeping our loved ones safe. It’s incredibly difficult when a family member wants to visit and you don't know where they have been. There are nieces and nephews to consider, who attend school, and kids cannot fathom the idea of social distance. Video calls have helped ease the pain, pictures too, yet as humans we need physical interaction to keep us going.
Though it's been hard, there have been some great outcomes. I have spent time with my child, getting to know him, getting to know myself as a mother and getting to know myself as a partner. The solitude, chosen or not, has allowed for self reflection and self diagnosis - space for me to tune up what can be tuned, to clean and keep my bubble in check. I pretty much like the person that I've met. She does well with what she has, and still reaches for what comes. In some way, knowing that it's affecting all of us makes evolution less of an excuse. It becomes a deliberate choice, to just try to make it work, at least for one day. And in some way, living in our own bubbles has kept the mayhem at bay.