There’s a song that we often play in the week between Christmas and New Year. It’s called, rather appropriately, “The Week Between” and it’s by John Roderick and Jonathan Coulton. There’s a line that I love and that I keep playing over in my mind:
The week between
New Year’s resolutions and conversations with last year’s dreams
This time last year, in the week between, what did my dreams for 2020 look like? I decided not to set any resolutions or goals for the year. I’d set myself 19 goal for 2019, some small and some big, most of them still unaccomplished by the end of the year—not that I didn’t accomplish anything in 2019, it was actually a pretty big year: I started to pursue a new career path, I launched the first issue of my urban nature writing magazine (a long held dream) Stonecrop Review, I won an award, and I had a baby!
In the week between, I decided I wouldn’t be setting myself “20 for 2020,” in part because I knew I would be setting myself up for “failure” and also because my baby was still small and new at the beginning of 2020, and I was still in the sleepless zombie phase of parenting. Instead, I set myself a word theme for the year: baby. I knew I wanted to be at home with her until she was at least 6 months, if not a year, and I wanted to lean in to motherhood and this fleeting period of babyhood.
Still, I had dreams for the year. I dreamt of what life would be like as a family with a baby: taking her to her first baby swimming classes, meeting up with other mums and babies for playgroups and coffee dates, and, of course, visiting family and friends so they could meet her for the first time. We were due to go to the UK in May for a friend’s wedding and I looked forward to seeing people I hadn’t seen in over a year, to handing over my cute and still cuddly baby for them to admire, and to being back in places I still consider home—Manchester, St. Andrews, and Amsterdam.
Well, we all know how that went. There were no baby swimming classes, there was one playgroup and then everything shut down, and there were no trips to the UK. Instead, I spent those long breastfeeding sessions and sleepless nights endlessly scrolling news sites in a state of fear and anxiety. In the early weeks of the pandemic I assumed it was inevitable that someone I loved would die, that I might even die—or worse, that both my husband and I would get ill and wouldn’t be able to look after the baby. I worried about the economic impact of the pandemic, and I worried about whether we would be able to feed ourselves. In those early days, anything, even the most apocalyptic scenarios imaginable, seemed possible. After all, the unimaginable had happened. I would never have guessed, in the week between, that 2020 would be our very own plague year.
As the initial anxiety and fear ebbed, we settled in to the new reality. Did I lean into baby? In a way, I was forced to. I spent all day, everyday, at home with her, only leaving for our daily walk. But I also found myself pulling away. Despite still being a sleepless zombie, I filled all her naps and my evenings with studying toward a book publishing diploma and launching the next issue of Stonecrop Review. I gave up any hope of going back to work and often felt like a trapped, 1950s housewife. In my kinder moments, I forgive myself for sometimes wanting to slip back into my pre-baby self and spend a day alone, reading, writing, thinking, without crying (my tears and the baby’s) or poopy diapers. In my kinder moments, I feel grateful to have been there for every first.
And yet, and yet, 2020 hasn’t been all bad for our family. My husband got the remote job he’d been hoping for—and it couldn’t have been more timely, he started the week that the lockdown began. And we were able to go ahead with our planned move from Toronto to Victoria, even if it was delayed. There were also dreams I couldn’t have dared to dream that have come true—getting to spend the last 6 months living in an apartment with sweeping views of the sea and mountains, and finally buying a house. We were also lucky that my mother-in-law was able to visit us for two weeks without anyone getting ill. And perhaps the biggest privilege of all—my loved ones have stayed safe and Covid-19 free.
2020 was also, of course, the year that many white people, myself included, far too belatedly woke up to the realities of anti-Black racism—a reality that Covid-19 has only further highlighted: black people and people of colour have been disproportionately affected by the virus. The incident in Central Park involving Black birder Christian Cooper also led to a lot of initiatives to highlight the ways in which Black people and people of colour are excluded from or made to feel unwelcome in natural spaces. Over the summer author Jessica J. Lee ran an #alliesinthelandscape Twitter book club. The book’s included Trace by Lauret Savoy, The Grassling by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, and The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham. Reading these books and reflecting on Lee’s questions (linked to above) seem like a small but good place to start.
Here’s to a happier, huggier and healthier 2021!