Missing you already

During lockdown, we started watching breakfast television, otherwise known as the one o’clock news.

The first cup of the day was guzzled around midday. The outfit of choice, tartan PJ’s, were removed anywhere approaching mid-afternoon. With luck, on the evolutionary timeline, formatted sentences usually appeared about the same time.

Of course, I’m talking here about teenagers here. That strange human breed - half child, half, er, something else - removed from their socially-networked peer cocoon during March, dumped without preamble into an alien day-time landscape run on a grown-up’s timetable.

Over the years, I’ve flown back from Los Angeles and New Zealand, both killers on the jet-lag front and guaranteed to mess with personal Ley lines for at least a week. Breakfast’s eaten at midnight, days of the week merge into one, a lifetime’s habit of carefully cultivated caffeine consumption lost.

But nothing, nothing, dealt a blow like coping with PYT.

Sadly, I refer not to an acronym for local drama group Perth Youth Theatre, but that lesser known association of individuals - Prolonged Youngster Transition - who perhaps lack the branded T-shirts and annual subscription, but are still a tightly-knit ensemble operating a strict set of guidelines.

I found myself pandering to the whims of hungry tummies at 11pm; begging from late morning that the dog be walked, pleading with tech-drained eyes to avert their gaze from a screen.

Like most parents, I laughed (or did I, can’t remember doing very much of this except at rolling repeats of Netflix’s Friends); cried (often, it was a sad time) and counted down the days to the return of THE ROUTINE.

Under the stairs, we’ve got a blackboard painted cupboard door on which some wag has inscribed – much like a depressed jailbird – days of incarceration in Roman numerals.

Then just as suddenly as it started, lockdown life was over and school had begun. With unseemly haste I had packed sports kits, picked-out spikes and studs encrusted with a mud from a bygone era. I sewed-on labels until my finger begged for forgiveness and checked, for perhaps the eighty seventh time, the actual start date of term and conditions of entry (just imagine you’d forgotten the mask and been turned away, aaarrggh).

And relax. No more endless catering demands or washing being flung in the laundry bin ten minutes after the machine started its cycle. Suddenly the alarm clock is once again king; Nick Robinson having returned to background wallpaper noise instead of centre stage in an empty kitchen.

There was actually one whole day when the dishwasher didn’t run and not a single dirty mug lurked in a dark place.

The cry of “Aw, mum” didn’t ricochet from the walls, nor Spotify blast from a speaker. No more discarded belongings tripping you up in the hall and I could actually find, and hang on to, an iPhone charger all day!

What bliss. Unyet, is it? A tech-savvy teen is a handy appendage even if you do have to wait until late afternoon for an appointment. Apple TV is way beyond my capabilities, requiring operation with anirritatingly small remote designed for the nimble digits of bright millennials.

Used to bulk buying on the catering front, we’re schlepping through more calories than a cross channel swimmer in a desperate attempt to fend off food waste; never a good move when the full-fat versions are bought for rapidly growing teens.

Tidier than it has been since early Spring, the house has taken a deep sigh. I should be content, what bliss to not have to replace a loo roll for one whole day.

But it lacks its lifeblood and all the accompanying mess and chaos, rhythm has been rerouted, bookended to the beginning and end of each day.

Although the essence has gone, it does come back in late afternoon and, weirdly, I find myself looking forward to disorganisation and edible demands.

Hanging on every precious detail of the day in the three minutes afforded before bedrooms, homework and bed beckon, I find myself lamenting the long lockdown chats and slouchy unfine dining.

‘Be careful what you wish for’ proffered some wise wag. Spot on. Perhaps I’ll try setting the alarm for 6.30am during half term. Good idea?!

Mairi Fraser

7.9.20

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