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A Letter to my Future Grandchildren

Dear Ones,

You will ask me stories about what it was like during the time of the virus, just as I asked my own grandparents about the war. I will tell you how at first I didn’t take it too seriously; none of us did. We listened, baffled, to the stories filtering in from China. But that felt so far removed from our safe lives here.

I will recount to you how the schools shut their doors, then the libraries closed, the shops; how one thing after another was cancelled like falling dominoes and how we took to our allotment where we dug our hands into the soil in a small patch of earth beneath the sky as empty trains rattled by.

I will tell you about the fear I sometimes felt, deep in the pit of my stomach, and how I had to limit myself to small snatches of news dripping its trail of awfulness around my home, not letting me escape.

I will shake my head at the memory of those days when I wanted to throttle my children, your parents – who fought and stormed up the stairs slamming doors – because I couldn’t stand to spend another minute with them, enclosed in an airless house.

But then I will also remember the times I wanted to hold them close, so close, and never let them go, the preciousness and fragility of life hitting me afresh.

I will smile as I tell you about how the bird song was clearer, because the cacophony of cars lessened, and how the emerging dawn chorus as spring erupted sounded more insistent and life-affirming than ever.

I will tell you how we all stood on our doorsteps at 8pm on Thursday nights and clapped until our hands were sore for those working in hospitals to save as many people as they could, tears pricking my eyes.

You will laugh as I recount how we bounded around the sitting room like crazed kangaroos and hopping bunnies, bashing into one another, as a man named Joe with bouncing curls issued exercise instructions from the laptop screen.

I’ll tell you how we all how we bought less, looking at what we already had with new eyes, and how music seeped back into the walls of our house as your parents played violin, flute and recorder together, their battles dropping away.

I will tell you how our presence in the world and our interactions shifted in a way from which there could be no return. And as the situation exposed the fractures in our interconnected web of being, we began to ask ourselves more and more: what kind of world do we want to make?

I will explain how, though we couldn’t be close to one another, we all found new ways to connect. And somehow people came together in ways they never had done before; that when we asked the lady at the supermarket checkout or the man delivering our parcels ’How are you?’ we really did want to know, maybe for the first time ever.

I’ll tell you, dear ones, that nothing was ever the same again after that; that there was a before and an after, and that the ‘after’ was infinitely richer and more deeply connected for those turbulent waters we waded through.

From your loving future grandmother

X

Rebecca Stonehill

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