A Lockdown Midnight Feast
One of the best things about being a mother is getting to rediscover my favourite children’s books. I spent much of my childhood immersed in fantasy worlds. I can remember checking in the backs of wardrobes for the doorway into Narnia (I still haven’t found one, sadly). Fortunately, I married another bookworm. Although our house is small, we always seem to find space for another bookcase.
It has been such a joy to see our two older children discovering books. Recently, there has been a lot of interest in some of my old boarding school stories, and they have been exploring Malory Towers and the Twins at St Clare’s. As a young girl, I desperately wanted to go to boarding school. I didn’t realise, of course, that modern-day boarding in Australia was not going to be like Cornwall in the 1950s. I imagined light-filled dormitories looking out over the sea, muddy games of lacrosse and - of course - midnight feasts.
Regional Victoria is back in another long lockdown, and this recent one has hit my kids pretty hard. Although we are fortunate to be living on an acreage out of town, the isolation and uncertainty have been emotionally challenging. Recently, on a particularly low day, my daughter suggested that we have our own midnight feast. She assumed I would say no.
I’m not what you would generally call a spontaneous person. The combination of being a doctor and a mother has cursed me with perpetual anxiety about what might go wrong. I’m the mother who nags about wearing helmets. Don’t run too far. Make sure I can still see you. That’s too risky. Get down from there.
I wish I could switch off the worry.
The terrible secret of motherhood is that when that new baby is laid in your arms, you suddenly realise that you are horribly, unthinkably vulnerable for the rest of your life. The idea of losing them is too much to bear.
Our children have no idea of this power that they have over us. They don’t know that we can lie awake at night thinking about the near misses, the what-ifs. I have been reliably told by friends whose children are now grown up that this worry doesn’t end when they leave home. Somehow, I must learn to live with this worry.
Lockdown resolution number one – learning to say yes more often.
So, I went shopping. When the kids were all asleep, I set up a picnic blanket on the floor in front of the fire. I cooked sausages, laid out fruit cake and made hot chocolate. I woke the older kids up at midnight, and they tiptoed excitedly down the hallway in their dressing gowns. We played our favourite card game Marrying Mr Darcy. It was magical.
Watching your children grow up is indescribable. There are times when I observe them, and they are so beautiful they take my breath away. I remember when they were small, when their soft hands held onto my fingers and their little bodies could fit in my arms. The time seems to have passed by so quickly. Little by little, we nudge them along the branch until they are ready to fly off on their own. Bittersweet surrender.
I want to hold them close for as long as I can.
Another important lesson was learned that night. I no longer have the stamina or digestion of an eight-year-old. Eating sausages and fruitcake in the middle of the night, then going to bed at 2am, showed me how old I am getting. Despite this unfortunate discovery, we are planning to do it again.