Recently my younger son had an iso-birthday. We arranged a trivia night with his older brother acting as quiz master from a distance of 1600 kilometres. On the appointed day, five households gathered together – Brady-Bunch-style – on my laptop.
Our lockdown household of four was the largest, squeezing together to fit the camera range and enjoying the unfamiliar physical intimacy of it. On the screen in front of us, the usual suspects gathered, greeting each other loudly and jostling with various offspring for couch space.
I was completely unprepared for the catch in my throat at the sight of their faces. These were some of the people I love most in the world. I felt something akin to the dull ache of homesickness, followed immediately by a warm glow that came from seeing them all together, even if in only two dimensions.
Our quiz night degenerated rapidly into mild chaos – as our get-togethers often do – ending in an internet glitch that disconnected the quiz master before he’d asked his first question. A disappointing end to our first attempt at online trivia but, for me, the sight of those faces has brought comfort and a gradual return of optimism.
A reunion may not be possible by Christmas, but we don’t need an excuse to gather together. If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s an appreciation of the privilege of surrounding ourselves with those we love. It may take longer than we planned, but when it happens it will be an occasion worth celebrating.