It was probably ten years ago when I first saw the little Delft Blue houses that KLM gives away to each of their business class customers. The houses, small containers of Bols Gin, are real copies of the gable houses alongside the canals in Amsterdam or from other historical towns in Holland. The airline started to give away the houses in 1952 and each year a new house with a unique number is presented.
Our home surely isn’t full of mementos or tiny pieces of nonsense, and Nico, surely not a person easily interested with “little things”, was amused by my scolding him for not bringing me a Delft Blue house from his trips to Canada via Amsterdam. Then this year, days before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, my hubby returned from a conference in Canada with a Delft Blue house for me. I got number 78, a tiny replica of Leidsegracht 51 in Amsterdam that was built in 1671. It is beautiful.
When the lockdown was announced my tiny house got a place of honour on my tiny writing desk. Not because of any reason other than for what it represented to me at the time: Freedom. For, at that moment, our travel-loving wings were severed. My tiny house represented a life lived freely, outside, explorimg to our heart’s content.
But it wasn’t all sadness and grief when I looked at the little house. It also reminded me of all the wonderful things we already experienced traveling. And that nothing lasts forever. Not even a virus. It reminded me to look forward to all the beautiful places still awaiting discovery and memories to be made. It inspired me and gave me hope. And it helped me to be mindful and present and to soak up the goodness of the Here and Now.
And so, on the eve of our last night of the strictest level of lockdown in Namibia, as we prepared to surface back into the “real world” (albeit for only a short stint) and my heart started to pound at the thought of “back to normal” or “the new normal”, whatever that may be, I needed to pen down a few words on the lock down luxuries we cherished. For I had the distinct feeling that, somewhere in the not too distant future, we will reflect back on this strange time and know that, despite the fact that the measures weren’t exactly self-imposed or agreed to, the time, nevertheless, was some of our most precious. A happy place, in many ways, we may even treasure for a long time to come.
Staying at home meant we got to invent and enjoy a more elaborate daily routine. There is a lot to be said about the comfort of routine, for kids and adults alike. Having Nico around 24/7 instead of just for short stints between field trips was extra special for all of us.
Opting to stay in our small little town for the duration of the lockdown, there really was only the weekly trips to our tiny little grocery store for the bare essentials. No impulsive trips to the mall, hardware or hobby stores, just groceries. And we couldn’t love it more.
And I am not talking only cars, trucks or crowds. I am talking about how easy it was to reduce the head noise. Pretty soon after the pandemic became real I opted out of social media groups and pages that were hell-bent on spreading anxiety, and poof! Peace appeared. Also, lockdown meant no accidental exposure to negative vibes anywhere, only the calm and quiet that we deliberately chose. And while it isn’t “normal” (or that much fun) to isolate yourself for extended periods just to avoid negativity, it sure gave us a lot of food for thought about how and where we expose ourselves to all things unnecessary.
With more time and predictability we could invent and reinstate certain family rituals. And again, just like routine, a positive family ritual is incredibly comforting for little minds and hearts and adults’ too.
One of our special rituals is “Piggie”. During a time when I was adamant that the boys needed to learn traditional folk rhymes, this game accidentally happened (and was all that remained of my effort – but with so much reward!) It is an after-dinner indoor game of chase that results in an abundance of very high-pitched screams, frequent teary wipe-outs, a few sprained toes and numerous bruises, but there is no way you get them to bed without four rounds of Piggie.
Also, no matter the weather, we jump in the pool for 10 laps after mom’s morning yoga. And if she dares not announce her swim because the boys seemed happily occupied by something else, she is in for a earful.
Embrace the ebb and flow
With the affirmation that “this too shall pass”, we started to embrace the ebb and flow of all the phases and emotions that surrounded the circumstances. This included the realization that “having cake (on consecutive days) won’t be a thing forever. Next week/month/ year we will live all the healthy we used to again, but for now, baking a cake with my family seems like the best thing to do”. And to enjoy the ride.
Freedom of Good Planning
For the first time in a long time we had to really plan ahead before our shopping trips, or make do without. And discovered how a bit of effort in this department afforded us with so much freedom down the line. Yes, the dinner menu’s wasn’t all that grandiose, but we ate well and certain youngens actually learned to appreciate more veggies. Win!
The suffering brought about by the pandemic and those left without income, food and shelter is something we still struggle to get our heads around. Initially I didn’t want to blog or post anything on social media, because my family and I are in the fortunate position that we have more than enough to get by. I felt so incredibly guilty for all that we have. Until I realised that, even before the pandemic or the lockdown, there were hordes of people that were less fortunate than me, and that never stopped me from being abundantly grateful for what I have.
This reaffirmed for us that, instead of being overwhelmed by the suffering and scarcity out there, pondering the impossibility of alleviating the entire world’s needs is futile. It may have us give up before we get started. But we can still make a difference locally, just like in the past. Any small action is better than no action at all, and that doesn’t make you ignorant of another’s suffering, it gets you moving and involved. And who knows what cascade effect it may cause down the line?
During the lockdown we definitely produced less waste. Not only did we make sure to eat or freeze all our food before it went off, but I didn’t ONCE forget my reusable grocery bags for my weekly shopping trips. Yay!
Of course there were days when we just felt bleh. And this can happen during any normal week or month. Sometimes you just don’t have the energy and nothing you can think of doing (or eating) can make you believe otherwise. Well, lockdown afforded us enough time to experiment and practice with ways to lift our moods instantly. For us this included a quick dip in an icy pool, exercising and stretching (even if we didn’t feel like it), playing a board game with the kids, impromptu tea sessions on the stoep, or baking (another) cake. Cake for the win.
Not only did I learn to appreciate our home in a fresh new way, but I also learned once more that nothing comes close to the security offered by being in your own home with your most precious people.
Perseverance and Determination
With no where else to go but stay home, we all had to dig deep some days to make things work. Started that puzzle? Finish it. Planted those veggies that the pests are devouring before your eyes? Find a solution.
So many times we give up on things that looked like a good idea at the time but bores or frustrates us later, just because there is ample opportunity for diversion. This all changed a bit during the lockdown, and I for one found it rewarding to have to stay with something a bit longer than usual.
Contact and correspondence with family and friends were more frequent and more meaningful during the lock down, which we are grateful for and hold dearly. A quick check on how we were doing were extra special during these strange times.
Also learning about the things people did globally to uplift others and create joy was so refreshing. The internet was full of people creating pictorial treasure hunts for kids out walking with their parents, old forgotten recipes shared and baked goodies passed over neighbourhood walls.
And let me not get started on the charities! So many people did so many crazy, beautiful things to generate funds and awareness for those in need. The love and kindness just kept on flowing. And the gratitude. Everywhere you looked gratitude oozed out of every pore of the planet.
During the lock down we also:
- had to adopt a “fix it or make do without” mentality when something broke. Which isn’t a bad quality to instill in kids. (I actually mended a pair of Mr V’s favourite underpants that got ripped to shreds!)
- learned to delay gratification even more
- Learned to accept favours
- Found even more joy in doing favours
- Experienced less boredom (knowing there is no escape), and more peace in just “being”
- Played more
- Rested more
- Invented more
- Created more
- Took better care of our bodies by eating even more healthily (cake is plant-based!) and remembering to take our vitamins and washing our hands.
In a nutshell, it is our honest-to-goodness wish that the global wake-up call that came from this pandemic, and all the things good and wholesome and less consumerist and more conservationist will be nurtured and carried on well beyond the life of the virus. In and around our home we sure are going to try. And my little blue house will serve to remind me.