The Old Normal
The email read ‘Results Day on August 13th’, words that brought reassurance but also disappointment, as I hadn’t actually done any exams to get results from. Knowing I wouldn’t see my friends on the day felt strange and anticlimactic. Even worse was having spent so long apart from my extended family. Our last full gathering had been New Year – a day so hopeful, so unsuspecting.
That world was gone now.
It still didn’t quite seem real.
The thundering of a chinook sent a shudder through the house. I watched its tandem rotors lacerating the air as it skimmed the rooftops. This had become so familiar; it felt like we were in some dystopian world, like those I’d studied in English. Perhaps it is wrong to romanticise the absurdity of our ‘new normal’. Or perhaps it is necessary.
“Watch this one!” I glanced up in time to see something shoot across the room and skid to a halt on the windowsill. My sister grinned at me from her desk. Sighing, I put my laptop aside and picked my way across the carpet of plane casualties to the latest crash site.
“Oh, you decorated it! That’s sweet.” I picked up the paper aeroplane and admired the flower pattern.
“Soup for lunch, girls?” Dad poked his head round the doorway as he wiped a bag of freshly-bought carrots.
“Yes please!” we chimed in unison.
I saw someone walking up the driveway. He wore a face-covering and carried a parcel in his gloved hand. After rapping loudly on the door, he left just as Mum appeared at the bottom of the drive. Like clockwork, she stood to one side and they exchanged appreciative nods as he passed by.
Opening the front door, I smiled at Mum.
“Gorgeous day,” she put her bag down, “the children spent all morning outside.”
“Too hot for me; there’s no breeze!” Dad called, “Would you like some soup, love?”
“It’s ‘too hot’, yet you’re making soup?” I teased, walking into the kitchen.
“You won’t be having any at this rate,” Dad countered.
“Is there sweet potato?” My sister emerged from the dining room.
Dad shook his head, “Mum used it for Sunday’s dinner, remember?”
Her shoulders drooped in response, then her face fell. “Oh, it’s my turn today isn’t it.”
“I’m afraid so!” Mum planted a kiss on her cheek, which was promptly wiped away with a sleeve.
“Soup, love?” Dad repeated, hovering by the fridge as Mum paused for thought.
“What shall I make?” my sister asked as I unfolded a wing of the paper aeroplane.
“Er...noodles?” I suggested, “Or- Hey!” I glared at her, having read the message scrawled on the aeroplane. “‘Fetch me some water, peasant.’? Peasant? Absolutely not!”
Mum attempted a frown, then chuckled.
“WOULD YOU LIKE SOME SOUP, MY DEAR?”
“Um...no, thank you. I’ll get some salad.”
The phone rang.
A while later, Mum put the phone back and turned to us with a broad smile. “That was Gran. We’re all meeting for a picnic on Saturday! Socially distanced of course, and we’ll take our own food.”
I beamed with excitement, nearly spilling the glass of water I was handing to my sister. She took it, then pulled a face. “Does that mean I have to actually socialise... with people?”
I threw the paper aeroplane and it spiralled at her feet.
Dad laughed, and Mum eyed the food he was preparing. “Actually...I will have some soup, please.”
My sister sighed with exasperation, “Ok, when do we go back to normal?”
I smiled. “I think you’ll find that this is normal.”