I woke up this morning. Our two littlest girls piled into bed with us – Aiden cuddled up and Delilah sat on my face whilst chanting for her breakfast. Warren got up, sorted food. Amelia came into our room to practice her piano (I know – weird place for a piano). Layla wafted in after her, half dressed, attempting to brush her matted nest of hair as she waited for her sister to be done so she could have her turn to practice. I woke Jackson with a rude removal of his duvet and told him to get his butt out of bed and get dressed for school. I got myself dressed and ready for a date with Andy Warhol at the Tate Modern. Came downstairs and gazed upon my happy collection of magnets punctuating the stark white of my refrigerator with recollections of the art exhibitions I have been to (Munch’s Scream, Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over The Rhone, Blake’s Newton…and all the rest) before opening the door to get the butter out. A usual morning. Except nothing is usual. Everything is tainted. With a shade of weird.
My house looks different. My fridge…looks different.
There are queues outside pharmacies. People fighting over toilet paper. There’s no shampoo or pasta. No traffic. The school playground is half empty. My son had seven children in his class today and will be doing his karate lesson via online tutorial next week.
As I drove around my North London neighbourhood trying to park my car so that Delilah and I could dash to the tube en route to the Tate before art is cancelled (as of tonight), I couldn’t find a single space. I started crying – how was I going to get to Andy Warhol if there was no space for my fucking car. And should I even take my two-year-old on the tube? The tears were streaming. I felt sorry for us all. For myself.
Because everything is different.
Something is lost.
I pulled my shit together. Spoke to my husband: decided that it will be better to move out of our rental home (which has been sold) on April 28 (rather than the original June 7) to somewhere, hopefully bigger, in London; planned where to buy milk on my way home from the gallery later (just one carton); swallowed a brief money panic…a life panic, and hit the underground.
People looked at me on the tube, with my sleeping toddler cradling my chest with her momma-love. Are they judging me? Pitying me? Praying that we don’t sit next to them. Or are they just looking. It’s hard to tell. Delilah ran along the South Bank, a sandwich in her squidgy hand, pointing at the Thames and bursting out with excited exclamations of “water, mom, water” as she dodged the occasional pigeon – even they seem to have vacated the premises. She’s oblivious. People notice. St Paul’s looms vastly over the skyline of Millennium Bridge – empty. I walk past the Globe theatre and my heart palpitates as a face stalks me – Lady MacDuff, “Our fears do make us traitors”; the words behind the black, haunted eyes on the brick wall of the playhouse reverberating with unknowing poignancy. Of course, Shakespeare knew.
I see Warhol. Over-consumption and death. Verbosity. Excess. Colour and life. Extravagance. How messy we all are.
And yet here is a chance, amidst the fear, the anger, the mourning, the isolation, to learn; to be better and do better. Here is a chance for us to be our best rather than our worst. To know what it is to be resilient – to teach our children. To face our humanness, our mortality and to know that there is more. Because there is.
This is a dark valley.
But not the end by any means.
Life is beautiful.
We must remember.