If any of you lot are even a little like me, you’ve likely been through at least three stages of Lockdown Appreciation. The first might have been gratitude — you’ve just been given cart-blanche to wear whatever, eat whenever, ignore whoever, and all from the comfort of your own little cubby spaces. The second wave was perhaps a little more active; a week of indulgence and it dawns that denial is getting you nowhere (pun intended) and a fiery spurt of productivity entered your days. You started new projects, picked up new hobbies or returned to long-forgotten ones — maybe you even started a health kick. Stage three though, the operative word in Lockdown Appreciation was less Appreciation and more Lockdown.
It was bound to happen. At this rate, we are either stodgy from a less enthused Stage Two approach, or giving up on the Stage Two approach because, like. Effort. On my end, it was more of the latter. Working out, writing, strict sleep regime. No stronger, not really sure how to quantify writing achievements (no, English Degrees do not do it correctly) and too rested that I actually now have lost the need for sleep entirely. To be fair, as I write this, conquering the need for sleep is quite an achievement. Nevertheless, for a day there I was feeling just a tad blue, as Mother says. The tiny things became something worth thinking over like a full-fledged novel, and the nonexistent things became essential platforms for imaginary hyperbole followed by subsequent overreaction. Focus point; The Boyfriend.
Lack of Daniel does not suit me well. To the extent that I might have to forego everything I stand for and admit it; I do require that famed TLC from time to time. Facetime gave much fuel to this Foul Francesca mindset. Take last night: Daniel, ever the optimist, was chatting along amiably. ‘Mum made the most epic lunch ever, Fran,’ and I thought yeah, if it weren’t for Covid I’d be eating it with you. And I want a hug. He threw in a question ‘What did you and your brothers get up to?’ I forewent a reply and thought stuff. And I want a hug. Fortunately, Daniel is well equipped with mind-reading skills and didn’t seem to notice. He did, however, score 6/10 in the ‘How Well Do You Know Me’ quiz I sent him, so that’s our first fight out the way. And a few days of overthinking material. I still want a hug.
I revealed last time that I was living back Home Home. Background: I did leave Home Home for Uni Home once upon a time. This was a decision that weighed greatly upon my family — both brothers had stayed in London for that stage of life, and I’d had the audacity to go an entire two hours North to Nottingham for my studies. Conversations then went something like this:
Mother: ‘But, sweetheart, so and so from that place you went once is having a birthday — surely you don’t want to miss that,’ completing Guilt Trip Part One.
Me: ‘Yes, sure, but I’ve just missed two weeks of class to go away with you, and I must go Hom-’
I’d be cut off-
Parents in unison: ‘- Don’t call that place Home!’
And I would leave, heart bouldering its way up my throat so I thought I’d throw up with guilt. So now, being Home Home, my parents are thrilled. All the children back with them and with nowhere to escape (because that’s what they think we think leaving is).
As a social experiment, it’s fascinating. We all have different era’s for different characteristics. My teenage years were my Over Analytical ones. Now a thing of the past, I think of it merely as a marker of Francesca’s Teen Era — some few hours into Home Home living and I realised: it’s an Alster Thing. After much discussion over what breakfast should be consumed (healthy to fend off Covid, or naughty to Bring Joy), I was in my room, waiting to join a Zoom catch-up call with my furloughed team. Enter: Father. ‘Francesca, do you have a moment?’ I answer, ‘Sure, what’s up?’ Pause. ‘But do you have a moment or do you have time?’ Um. ‘I have ten minutes?’ — ‘Oh okay, we will talk later’ — ‘No no go on what is it?’ Pause. ‘Okay fine,’ and Dad gestures for me to sit. He asks me a question — it was a moral dilemma. I thought and then I answered. Pause. He asked it from another angle. I stuck with my answer. The conversation ensued to allow four more hypothetical factors and three analogies (with a minor squabble over what qualified for an accurate analogy) before George strode on in. His opinion differed from mine; he felt passionate about it. I understood that the conversation had been going for quite some time before it was introduced to me. ‘Dad, I think your decision is made, I just think you don’t like your decision. I don’t think that’s going to change it,’ I said. He sat. He stroked his beard. ‘Ok,’ and he departed. He has still not actioned either decision.
Mum has as usual been abnormal in her ability to bring Peace Among the Family. I give her this credit because, while I know none of us really argue, I don’t know that it’s not because of her. Last week, two Seder dinners magically appeared before us (I snuck backstage and am privy to the reality of four hours cooking each day with a solid hour prep and two hour clean up either side). This week, it’s back to her roots for Easter weekend. Some time long ago, before the Ban of Parents from Foodstores (the kids’ rule, ‘Ay’-d by the kids, enforced by the kids, begrudgingly accepted by the parents), Mum did her typical heavenly thing and prepared for the future. As such, she was able to surprise us with an Easter Egg Hunt in the garden. George, 23, is the youngest of us here. Gemma (my sister-in-law) and I sit somewhere in the middle and Adam, 31, is the eldest. And so it came to be that four adults toggled up in rain jackets or sheltered under towels, flip-flopped across our garden in the rain, following these clues written by Mother. To ensure none of us came out lesser than the others (Mother is well versed in childhood squabbles, I assume), we each had our own clues. We had our own mini eggs and we had our own Ultimate Goal; the Easter Egg Box. We spent half an hour as our youngest selves, harking back to the days doing much the same at Grandma’s house, and deduced that the children in us had gone absolutely nowhere. The rush was the same, the awkward ‘you go first, no you go first — fine, I’m gonna find mine before you!’ conversations ignited just as much competitive spirit (poor Mum had tried so hard) and the glow upon our faces when we eventually found our holy Eggs was just as bright. That evening, after a change into our evening comfies from our daytime comfies, we sat in front of a movie cradling our Eggs (not too close - we had carefully chilled them in the fridge to the demise of many essential chilled items).
Of course, this effort on Mum’s end of going nonstop nonstop nonstop means one day a month she has to breathe. This one day usually comes in the form of total collapse, bedridden until the next sunrise on account of excruciating migraine, stomach ache, backache, nausea. You name it. This month’s Day Of Rest happened to fall on the day of my arrival. The house was sombre; the skies fell grey. The men sighed and plodded, and I was rendered confuddled. Did this happen each month? Did this Day Of Rest (and I’d like to clarify, the symptoms are very real — Mum’s hardly having a grand ol’ time partying), always draw the total standstill of the lives of the other Alster’s? I was, as they say, Shook. Shook, and admittedly, defeated. I did not like this. I sighed along with the others. By the end of the day, I was near on huffing and puffing. In this time of Covid, we simply cannot deal. A sore throat? In our delicate Mother? It’s Covid. She can’t get Covid. What if she breaks? Was that a cough?! Shiver. Shudder. As much as I am wholly aware of the fact that our Mother is actually the fittest and strongest of us all (bar maybe Adam but he's been blessed too heavily in this regard and to speak of it is to spark jealously around the world so I shan’t)…despite this, I know the Day Of Rest must be avoided at all costs. So cook I will. Clean out cupboards that have not been used in years, I shall. If there’s an announcement of a pending project, I’ll get there first. I’m saving lives, people. There’s a new Mother in town (ish — give me the years she had practising and I might get there).
With this, comes new insight. I am now totally aware of the part each of us play in making a mess, and cleaning a mess. And I am proud of us all. I have noticed though, that this project Rescue Mother might be better rested upon Adam’s shoulders. He has this skill you see, in making everything seem fun. I’ve always said he will be contracted to join all family trips to Disneyland when I have kids (even if he’s walking stick age). I am right in this too, the theory transcends practise and I see it work with even boring commitments. Yesterday, he got me involved in a HIT class. I do not do HIT. I run, slow and far, never fast, and I do weights. ‘Fran, come, let’s do a HIT session.’ And suddenly I do HIT. As simple as that. And I liked it. I mean I hurt, but I didn’t want to hurt Adam back. Nay, the bliss of the simplicity that he brings boggles the mind — ‘let’s clear the dishes’ he half says, and clamouring, as if the call for last drinks has just been announced, everyone does. In honesty, he could probably get away with propping himself on a throne and ordering us here and there and everywhere. So in gratitude to his responsible use of power, I hereby betroth upon him something else — not a throne, but another contract. When my future kids make it to their teens, he’s moving in.
The end of another article passes us by (that’s how I measure time now), and with it comes the usual sign off:
- Boris Johnson is out of the hospital and hell-bent on returning to work. We’ve caught at least one break.
- I’m about to run 14k and you don’t have to.
- Easter Egg Hunts can be for everyone, and the eggs are half price now.
- I managed to guess the recipe for Zuma’s spinach salad on Japanese Theme night and I’m going to post it right after this. You are most welcome.
I’ll be back next week for further trials and tribulations of the adorably basic life I lead. Ciao for now.