I had a haircut scheduled. Fiona was supposed to be doing her driving road test in a few days. It was March 17th, 2020.
A week later my hair was longer than ever, and it would continue to grow for another 12 weeks, and Fiona was still a student driver. And then, with gloves for gas stops and 48 hours’ worth of food packed for each trip, I was driving first to Calgary to retrieve Erin and then to Vancouver to retrieve Sophie. Erin’s career as an orchestral violinist was over for the time being. Sophie’s graduation with her Mechanical Engineering degree became a bit of a non-event with everything moved online. Fiona moved home to New Denver, being between/after jobs anyway. Noah stayed in Surrey to maintain access to tech tools and high speed internet, but the rest of us were home together, and we were a family of five suddenly.
And so it stayed, for many months.
Sophie got a summer job. Erin got a partial income sorted out. Fiona decided on a university (Toronto), knowing everything for the fall was in flux. And we stayed home together, and almost nothing happened.
I began writing long emails to my extended family again regularly, if only to give my mom, and perhaps, I confess, myself something to look forward to every few days. And so in Sent Items I have a journal of sorts. It speaks of pandemic ‘adventures’: learning to use Zoom, knitting and more knitting, trying to share rural internet out amongst five people all with their meetings and interviews and lessons and lectures and collaborations, buying normal amounts of toilet paper while trying to avoid feeling judged for potential hoarding, nurturing the offspring of Noah’s sourdough starter to daily fruition, growing seeds on the windowsill and then a garden that beat out last year’s by a mile, spinning almost a kilogram of yarn, braving the grocery store those first couple of times with a shopping list that I hoped would last a week but never would because who is used to cooking for five adults — not me!, sewing masks, so many masks, from fetching fabric prints featuring colourful germs, and learning how to be a family again with kids who are actual adults, but don’t have actual adult lives. Because COVID. It went surprisingly okay.
And of course we cancelled SVI, which created a massive space in my life called “summer.” Who knew? It was outrageously relaxing! But also sad and empty. I’ve finally relinquished the last of my violin teaching because our internet really isn’t up to the task of Zoom lessons, and my orchestra gigs are gone. I’m really missing all the music.
I have kept plugging away at filling the space. Cooking for all those people. Gardening as much as I can manage in the space and season available. A few epic mountain adventures (up to the New Denver Glacier and also to Idaho Peak, both self-powered from the bottom, both longstanding personal dreams/challenges). I’ve joined a few committees and action teams: for local road-biking, for trail-planning, for virtual Suzuki institute guidelines and best practices, for diversity, equity and inclusion in the Suzuki world. I keep plugging away at online learning of my own, like UofA’s Intro to Indigenous Studies and Japanese language learning for no particular reason. I practice piano (Bach’s 5th French Suite for the win!) with enduring inefficiency. And I dedicate a pile of time to the BC home learning network, which has seen astronomical growth thanks to panicked parents pulling their kids from schools due to fear or elevated risk factors.
Also, we have a greenhouse!
In my mental life-plan travel was delayed until after university, and then until after student loans, and then until after babies, and then until after homeschooling, and then until after Chuck could extricate himself from 24/7 practice. Which he did, last year. There was a trip to Ontario in September 2019, and a trip to Baja in November 2019 (both with bikes!), and there were gestating plans for Utah (road and MTB) in spring 2020 and onwards from there to places like Majorca and Croatia and who knows where. I own the bike travel crate! I have the lightweight bike bags and gear!
But it was not to be. I regret my deferred-gratification approach to travel. Chuck did a fair bit of travelling as a young adult. I got my first and only passport stamp last November entering Mexico. I was ready to fill those pages!
So instead we have a greenhouse.
I won’t complain. It is an amazing greenhouse: like a cathedral dedicated to the glory of plants. I am so stoked to make use of it next spring. And I love where we live. And I love that we got to spend an unexpected five months with our three girls.
Now they are gone, though. Sophie is off adventuring with friends, in a COVID-responsible way of course, while continuing to investigate employment opportunities. Hopefully abroad, but anything international has its challenges these days. She has a job, supposedly, in the UK in the New Year, but who knows… Erin is back in Calgary, doing occasional small chamber music performances with the CPO. Noah is working full-time at EA Games, making a grown-up living. Fiona did finally get her driver’s license. She has now headed to Toronto for some sort of weird new life at University there, studying things vaguely health-science-oriented.
Who would have guessed that the finally empty nest would arrive this way? I had long made my peace with staying local, with enjoying the natural environment right here where we live. That was how it was for almost three decades and I was okay with it. In the back of my mind, though, I was quietly dreaming of a day when the world would open up for me. It is hard to keep waiting.