My son is writing down his grade one words of the week. He drops his pencil, again, and rubs out another word, careful not to crease the page. I smile at him. Just get on with it snaps the voice in my head. More smiles from me as he shoots me a glance and brushes the small pile of grey flotsam onto the carpet with an effortless flick of his wrist. I’ll clean it up later… If constantly rubbing out was an Olympic sport, he’d end up on the podium.
He’s singing along.
A verb is a word, it’s an action word.
It’s all action next door, my neighbour is making guttural noises in his backyard. It sounds like he’s moving a piano. Every time he exhales, he lets out a grunt. I keep listening for C major. But he’s conducting his own orchestra – one of his online fitness classes, and he’s doing it with a dog and toddler on the sidelines who desperately wants to join in, and a baby crying inside. He is unflappable. He doesn’t skip a beat. His grunting gets louder.
Work it! Work it! Work it!
I’m working it at my usual spot at the kitchen table. By working it I mean I’m having a freshly brewed cup of Earl Grey tea. And a honey and oat cookie. I’m on about eight cups a day. I don’t keep count of the cookies. I’m staring out the window. The garden is in the first stages of transition, there are signs of growth, signs that winter is giving in. There is a dove head-bobbing its way towards the underside of our bench. It’s soon joined by its mate. Love doves. I see them in our backyard every day. We think of them as ours. I seek them out every morning. Seeing them makes me feel better – I watch them and I think, I think about nothing, I think about everything. I think about food. I think about food a lot in lockdown. What can I cook for dinner without having to go to the shops? What will provide maximum flavour for minimum effort? Can we go lamb again?
I glance back at the table.
That’s not a verb darling, it’s an adjective.
This is life in suburban Melbourne, 2020. Things are different this year. Usually this is a time of hope and optimism, where the weight of the cold begins to lift and people find their bounce, the days get longer, the sun comes into play, and finals football raises its head. But here we are. We find ourselves in a masked world, a strange dream for some, an inconvenience for others, and for many, a living hell.
But there are flecks of gold in this apocalyptic landscape. There is humour. Thank god there is humour. There’s humour in the everyday; the mundane, there is humour in the curiosity of the seven-year-old who I sit next to for six hours of home learning, every day.
Did they have cars when you were growing up?
Why aren’t you and Dad married yet?
Did you know this is the worst virus of my life?
Imagine how bad Covid-20 will be?
Dad, would you win Ninja Warrior?
Would you rather have invisible power or flying power?***
…How long will it take for the Adelaide Crows to be good again?
I pretend not to hear.
Mum! When will the Crows be good again?
Oh, it usually takes about a year to rebuild, I say, exercising my parental right to be loose with the truth.
All teams go through it. An image of Chris Scott flashes through my head. I ignore it.
Francis seems happy with my explanation.
He switches play.
Dad’s hair is starting to look like a mushroom. A giant mushroom.
Amid all the chaos and misery of 2020, I’ve found something to take me away from it all.
Teaching Francis is a chore at times – I have looming deadlines and a documentary script that won’t write itself. But it has also been a gift.
I get to enter the mind of my 7-year-old son. Day in, day out. And what a beautiful place it is, a place of unbridled optimism, a place of joy, a place where a twig becomes a wand, and where clouds become horses and dragons – a place where dreams are allowed to soar.
I’m lucky, I know that.
I want to take something away from all this and I will. Francis has reminded me not to bury my own hopefulness.
Some good will come out of this.
And the Crows will rise again.