My eldest daughter skipped downstairs to breakfast, threw her arms in the air in triumph, and announced delightedly: “Today we are going to see nana and granddad!”
It had been almost three months since the kids had met with their beloved grandparents. This pandemic-induced hiatus was all the more frustrating, knowing that they were just half an hour away down the road.
Of course, there had been many video calls and messages sent, but such things are a pale imitation of actually spending time together. The lifting of the first phase of quarantine restrictions had at last made real-life visits possible. On the very June morning that restrictions were eased, my parents were going to come to our house for a socially distanced visit. It was strange to have to brief the kids on staying at a remove from their grandparents, who are normally hugged half to death upon arrival. Yet caution is still the order of the day, and a small price to pay.
That morning, the kids were busy baking cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies for the occasion. During lockdown, the kids had developed some amazing skills, which they were keen to demonstrate. My nine year old daughter had become an expert baker and my 10 year old son developed remarkable carpentry skills. Lockdown had been a busy time for us renovating our old house, and we had a lot to show for the three months of quarantine. The kids were justly proud of all their efforts in laying lawns, planting flowers and growing vegetables and were very excited to give their grandparents a tour.
In fact, they were so excited that they insisted on waiting at the gate for the VIP arrivals for a half hour before they were due. When they eventually arrived, they scampered down the lane behind the car. The kids were overflowing with chat and stories for my folks, and a we spent warm afternoon catching up in the garden.
The next morning, we decided to test our newfound liberty further still with a trip to the sea. The kids had hardly left the garden in three months, except for a few outings to walk the dog. The kids longed for the sea and the poor dog, having arrived from Tipperary just before the lockdown, had never even seen it. The next morning, we duly trundled over to a favourite haunt on the west Cork coast, where the woods meet the water.
When we arrived, the air was still and the water a perfect mirror, reflecting the hills across the bay. There was a pure silence – at least for the brief moment before I opened the car door to let the kids out. They came caterwauling out the door, thundering across the grass before leaping gleefully down onto the sand, my eldest kicking a celebratory football high into the air. Meanwhile, the dog escaped from the boot and galloped down to the water for a drink, as he does in our stream at home. He whimpered confusedly at the salty taste but then ran headlong into the brine regardless.
Following the older kids, as ever, our toddler waddled delightedly across the beach, joining in the general merriment. In the few months that the beach had been denied to us, she had even forgotten the word and now practised it gleefully, saying “beach, daddy” repeatedly, while pointing in wonderment at the sand.
We ambled along the shore, spotting seashells and jellyfish and breathing in the cool salt air of the morning. After a fine walk, it was time to return home for another day of home school – for while we are now freer, the world has not fully righted itself quite yet.