So, where to start? Where to begin again, after the longest summer ever, and in Shanghai to boot… I’ll go back to my roots and start with logistics…
It’s September 1, 2020 and all three kids are back in school. Day 1, Term 1. A fresh start – and one of my favourite times of year.
I can’t dream of a full school year yet, but I can hope for a good solid start – a day, a week, the month of September. Full days, every day, with the promise of after school activities starting again, as usual, in a couple of weeks time. The schedule repopulating (but not too much, please?)… piece by piece.
The eldest cycles in, ready to take her place in amongst the rulers of Junior School. I wonder how quickly the swagger of Yr 6 will descend upon them all. This should be a wonderful year for them all, the BIG KIDS on campus, but I wonder what shifts, what distinctions, COVID-19 will bring for them over the course of the year. Less playtime with friends from other classes, no residential trip (for now)… and what other subtle variations from what would have been ‘expected’? Will they notice?
The middle one hates having to tuck in his shirt. Feels heavy footed in his new, smart school shoes. (I’m fairly certain he’s been in flip-flops since mid January.) Has forbidden a haircut (which he desperately needs) and loses his hand-sewn mask before he’s even left the our compound.
And the littlest? She’s ready to move up into Key Stage 1. Her new backpack almost as big as her, proudly carrying in all her library books to return. Buoyed, rather than weighed down, by all she has to learn. I was allowed onto campus today with her. Just this once. To see her to her classroom. In theory to meet her teacher, put a face to a name… but her teacher hasn’t made it here and through quarantine yet, so I smile and say hi to her substitute teacher – who we both already know – and in little one runs. Ready for her friends. No kiss, no goodbye, no concerns.
And then there is… me.
And so this is where it all begins again
I got side-wiped by a rush of tears as I cycled past the main campus. A traditional dragon dance to welcome them back. I was just so very grateful. And that is my COVID story – from beginning to end. All these months on, what I have is gratitude. In small fleeting moments… and in huge waves of appreciation. (For the travel adventures we did get to have, for the relationships that blossomed in these strange circumstances, for our wellbeing here in Shanghai, for the swimming pool, for the fact that my kids are getting to go back to school… a never ending list…)
I know I am essentially ‘stuck’ in Shanghai for the foreseeable future (it’s so hot, so humid, I miss the sea & time outside in nature, and god only knows when I’ll get to be with my family and ‘elsewhere’ friends again) but as I see my long-missed expat allies finally returning to this place we call home, I can’t help but feel that I am unbelievably lucky – to be able to knit a new way forward together, in this mish-mash community of hopes and dreams.
So, no more excuses for me. No more stories of not having the time or space to concentrate on anything.
I have time back. To refocus on my work, my various courses, my continued desire to learn more and serve better, always.
I will write, try new things. I’ll fail – and I’ll try again.
Because, three years ago I set myself off on an adventure so huge that I mastered the art of time-travel. And I realised that, no matter what… Actually, I can.
The difference now is that I don’t want to ‘go back’ and have my time again. I want to move towards that golden glimmer of hope and keep on going.
Because, no matter what, this is where it all begins again.
And it’s up to me to make the most of it.