Hagen Engler. Picture: Supplied
“What day is it?” my daughter asked, stumbling through into the lounge.
The light, the temperature and the atmosphere told her this was the time she would usually be going to school. But today I’d let her sleep in.
Immediately following the president’s television announcement the night before, I’d tried to impress upon her the relevance of what he’d said.
“The schools are closing, my girl!”
But she is seven years old, and these kinds of things only affect her when they’re experienced directly.
On the other hand, we are all seven years old. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak has been theoretical for a while. We may have heard about it through the news and social media. China. Lockdowns. People in masks. Numbers.
But these have only become real to us over the past week or two, as the power of globalisation has efficiently, inexorably, brought them home to us. Now they affect us, and now we are all seven-year-olds stumbling into the lounge, asking what day it is.
The truth is we do not know what day it is. These are days like no others. We have few points of reference to make sense of what we are experiencing. This is not a Monday like any before it. We cannot proceed as we have done.
From today, we begin life anew. So sleep in, my love. You will need your rest.
You will not go to school today. Today, we stay home. Tomorrow we stay home. For as long as we can, we stay home, while the world shifts around us. While the very axis of the planet realigns itself.
We will try to fix a little point of stability here. I have some typing work. You have some lessons from school. We will touch the world through our phones, and we will remember it, speak of our lives as if they still continue.
Perhaps we will be able to pick up where we left off one day, but for now, it’s hard to tell. There will be an interval. And they say there will be an after.
But it will be a different kind of after. Nothing will be quite the same again, my love.
So let us keep ourselves well, and remember those times before, those innocent, mundane times. Let us preserve these past few weeks, the days most fresh in our memory. Let us quickly record them. Let us consciously cast our minds into the immediate past and write it down, or fix for posterity. So many things we did for the last time, not knowing. Oblivious.
Remember how you felt when you were leaving school on Friday? Tired, you said. A long day of lessons, and then aftercare, playing with the other aftercare children. How you and Sophia were doing handstands and upside-down backbends. How we went for drive-thru. How we went shopping together, you and I.
We may do it again, and we hope we do. But for now, let us keep the memory of our lives alive for ourselves. Where we can, let us continue our former rituals, let’s keep that routine, maintain the ways of doing that we are still permitted.
But let us sleep late, and let us dream of those heavenly former days. Let’s dream, my love. Of what we have lived, and what we may yet live to live.
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