“You’re not going to believe this, Mum,” says my daughter when she rings.
Oh oh! I always get nervous when my children say something like this. You never know what’s coming. “Go on,” I say, bracing myself.
“Someone has tested positive at Rose’s school. Everyone in her class has got to go into isolation until next week.”
No! My heart goes out to the person concerned. But I also feel for all those parents and carers whose children have only been at school for one week and are now back to square one.
So yes – it’s home schooling again!
Luckily my daughter is a teacher herself, which definitely helps. Until now, I haven’t really been involved. Just as well! I’ve never been any good at maths. And this new way of teaching children how to read is beyond me.
I speak too soon!
The engine failure light has come up on my daughter’s car and she’s been advised take it to a specialist garage, nearly an hour away. “Do you mind sitting with the children?” she asks. (I’m part of the childcare support bubble so am allowed to do this.)
I’m really meant to be working on my new novel but how I can say no? So off I pedal on my bike to their place.
“Rose has got a Zoom class in five minutes,” says my daughter airily.
I get that awful cold feeling you sometimes have in dreams where you are about to sit an exam you haven’t prepared for.
“What am I meant to do?” I ask my daughter as she grabs her car keys.
“Just sit next to her. You’ll be fine.”
Hah! I should have known there was more than that.
My five-year-old granddaughter and I take our positions at the kitchen table in front of the laptop, waiting to be “let into the room”.
A gallery picture of children come up on screen. Rose gets very excited. “Look Gan Gan! Those are my friends!”
I know quite a few by sight from the school gates. There are also a couple of parents in the background and one of my granny friends. At least I’m not alone.
But I do seem to be the only one who is trying to eat lunch surreptitiously. Whoops!! I’m not muted. They can probably hear me munching my baked potato. Let’s hope I don’t get detention!
I have to take my hat off to the teacher. It can’t be easy teaching remotely. But she does it brilliantly. Each pupil is asked to think of an animal that they would have on an island. When it gets to Rose’s turn, a sweet little shy look passes across her face. For a minute, I see myself back at school.
“A lion,” she says, “with a big mane.”
I’m so proud of her…
In fact, my heart is fit to bursting.
“I’d also have a mermaid,” she says.
Even better! We live by the sea, as some of you might know, and I’m always making up mermaid stories with her.
The lesson whizzes by. In fact, I’m sorry when it finishes. What fun that was! Whoops! The teacher is now telling us when the next class is tomorrow and also what homework is. I frantically make notes. They have to write about what they would like to find on an island.
“Let’s make a start, shall we?” I suggest to Rose brightly. “We can give Mummy a surprise.”
I watch my granddaughter write each word with care, concentrating furiously. How amazing! Can it really be just five years since she was born?
When my daughter comes back, we proudly present her with the finished work. “Lovely,” she says. “I’m really grateful.”
The next day, I’m keen to see how we got on in the homework stakes.
“Don’t take offence, Mum,” she says, “but Rose and I added some adjectives too.”
I should have thought of this! Apparently this instruction was in some online bit which I didn’t take in. I’m beginning to be grateful that in my day we just had pen and paper.
Meanwhile, as the week goes by, I have to say that it’s not easy for my daughter. The children are confused. They want to be with their friends. And their parents and carers are also confined to home because they can’t go out with the children unless there’s someone in the bubble to help.
It also puts paid to the birthday plans that I’d had with my daughter last Wednesday. I can’t believe that she is 35! We were going to have a mother and daughter picnic on the beach but obviously we can’t do that now.
I was also going to make her a birthday cake. But instead she texts me a list of ingredients as she can’t get out. “Do you mind if you get these for us, please?”
In fact, I was planning on making her the sweet shop cake from an old My Weekly recipe I’ve had since she was little.
“That’s really kind, Mum. But I’d like to make my own because it will give us something to do.”
I can see that. When you can’t even go out for a walk, you need to fill the day with activities.
In fact, my daughter’s birthday was more fun than she expected. Friends left little presents on the doorstep and she and I had lunch in the garden with the children. In the evening, I babysat while she and her husband had a little walk by the sea.
I always get very emotional when it’s my children’s birthdays. I can’t help going back to the day they were born. In fact, it’s become tradition that I tell them the story of their birth!
“When you were two months old,” I told her, “there was a terrible nuclear explosion in a place called Chernobyl. I always remember being very worried because the clouds drifted over towards us.”
It’s a different kind of threat from the one we are facing now. But I remember that anxiety all too well. Then I look at my lovely daughter and grandchildren and I remind myself of a poem in the little book of inspirational sayings that my mother left me. It’s all about not worrying about the future because we can’t do anything about it.
Easier said than done. But sometimes if we look back at parts our lives where we thought we couldn’t get through – but did – it gives us encouragement.
We all need that at the moment with the headlines changing from day today. And it’s not just young parents who are worried.
“What do you think will happen?” asks my 97-year-old father when we have our morning chat.
“I think it will all work out,” I reassure him.
“What did you say?”
Talking to daddy – who lives several hundreds of miles away – is becoming increasingly difficult. His hearing has got far worse in the last year but there’s nothing we can do because he doesn’t want anyone coming to the house to give him a test.
Even though I bought one of those telephone screens so we can see each other while we talk, he sometimes feels too tired.
I’m just hoping that we’ll be allowed to drive down there soon.
On the plus side, I’m really enjoying having this extra time with my eldest son who is living with us until he can return to his job in Spain. But I’m also aware it’s hard for him. He is an adult, used to his own company. In the early days of him being home, I found myself coming out with that dreaded, “Tidy your room!” phrase.
He and my husband also get a bit frustrated when one of them ends up with each other’s odd sock – until the dog gives the game away! There they are, lining his basket.
But now I’ve stopped nagging. Lockdown is not a time for that.
Mind you. There’s one exception. Back at Christmas, I bought my little grandson a rather special train set. But I didn’t think about how much space it was going to take up or about the surface.
“You need a board to put the tracks on,” says my husband when he finds me trying to put it together on the carpet.
He spends some time researching this. Good! He needs something to do! But then this massive piece of hardboard arrives which completely blocks the front door.
“I’m not having that here,” I say.
“We can’t fit it in our house,” points out my daughter.
Eventually, we compromise by putting it behind our piano. But it’s sticking out at the side and doesn’t look very pretty. I have to admit that I get a bit upset about this. To make it worse, it’s the evening by now, which is never a good time to have a disagreement. So we make up.
In the morning, I decide that a large piece of wood in our sitting room isn’t at the end of the world. There are more important things to worry about. Like keeping our family on track, no pun intended!
It’s nearly a year since I saw my youngest son who lives three hours away. But at least we talk regularly, even though I have to stop myself from saying things like “How about cutting your hair”. Maybe that’s why he prefers to speak without the screen!
Sometimes I send him and his girlfriend the odd parcel of surprises like a houseplant for their flat.
We don’t have a big garden any more. But like many people I’ve discovered a real joy in growing things. Helping something comes to life makes me feel positive. It’s still a miracle to me that a little seed can become the hint of green and then a tiny plant.
“What’s this one?” asks my husband as he points to a pot on the kitchen windowsill.
“I’m not sure,” I admit. Oh dear. I should have labelled it better instead of leaving the soggy packet underneath. Next year, I will definitely be more organised.
But I do know what this one is! It’s a pot of sweet peas which the children helped me sow.
And maybe – with a lot of luck and faith – by the time they come into bloom, the rest of the world will be doing the same.
Grandparent of the Week – Jane
Jane has two grandchildren, Beatrice and Bertie aged four and two. However, she and her husband John haven’t been able to see them during lockdown. Here are her reflections. Jane’s wonderful writing really moved me.
“Mama’s here!” Squeals of delighted excitement always greeted me when I stepped out of my car to visit my grandchildren Beatrice and Bertie over a year ago…
The sumptuous joy of being hugged and squeezed so tightly that I could hardly breathe! The sitting on the familiar red sofa, reading many books together surrounded by love and cuddles, was so taken for granted.
Playing hide and seek, tag, painting masterpieces – just uninterrupted creativity with the constant look of wonder at me!
I miss the tenderness that only young children can give… a touch of a soft, little hand caressing my wrinkled face; the exquisite smell of bath time – soap and powder – soft skin on mine and drying hugs in warm bath towels.
We always made animal noises together, getting into pyjamas ending in singing favourite nursery rhymes.
BUT the closeness of touch has gone for the moment – a wasted year of bonding taken away. The forbidden fruit.
I miss the true endorsement of being truly loved and my heart is heavy.
I know that when we’re allowed to meet up again, I shall cry uncontrollably.
When they rush towards me (with no harsh restrictions), I shall squeeze them so tightly and tell them how much I have missed seeing them and how much I love them… adore them…
We will then go down the ancient country lane near their home, as before, holding hands and putting “special” treasures found from the hedgerow into their little, wicker baskets… singing and being noisy!
Being together again, at last, having a fun time tea party with teddies and dolls, cups and saucers… crumbs everywhere! Wonderful noise!
At last, my heart is uplifted and zinging with happiness again.
Do Get In Touch
If you would like to tell us about your situation as a grandparent during lockdown, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
JANE CORRY is the author of five best-selling thrillers, published by Penguin. Her latest novel I Made A Mistake is about Betty, a grandmother who lives with her son’s family. Available in paperback (£7.99) and also as an e-book and audio, narrated by Emilia Fox. http://bit.ly/IMadeaMistake OR https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Made-a-Mistake/24376830