Charli, I’m writing this letter to you in 2021 with the hope that you read it on your 21st. As your nana, I hope to be there, toasting you with champagne and cheering you on to whatever goals you have set yourself.
By now, I’m sure you know how very, very much you are loved and how much you have brought into our lives since you arrived in the early hours of April 19, muttering to yourself what seemed to be a litany of complaints about the past nine months in utero.
What you may not know, however, is the strange times you were born into. Historic I would say, and – pray – once in a lifetime. I’m going to try to capture that, while we can still remember the strangeness, in the hope that this is just a blip on the radar and will soon fade into our collective memories.
The weirdness began when you were still a twinkle in your father’s eye. We – your mum, dad, uncle and I, had made the big tree-change to 10 acres of bush near Batemans Bay.
The first six months were frenetic as we made ourselves a new home – me in the top house, your uncle in a two-bedroom cottage down the bottom, and your mum and dad working day and night to convert an old shed into a comfortable first home.
I can’t begin to explain how hard they worked. They had help from your grandfathers, and from me, but they put every ounce of sweat, muscle and money they had into that place – and it was beautiful!
New Year’s Eve 2019 was to be the house-warming, but we had no idea how hot things would get.
For so many people on the South Coast, that New Year’s Eve seemed to mark the beginning of the madness. Following years of drought, bushfires had been burning across Australia for months. It was unprecedented and we pray it was a once in a 100-year event, but fear it’s a sign of things to come.
New Year’s Eve was when the fires got personal.
READ ALSO: Six months on, bushfire scars remain
Sweeping down from the mountains to the sea, they incinerated everything in their way. I was one of the lucky ones, my house was damaged but not razed. The Black Summer bushfires destroyed almost 2500 homes, including your uncle’s and your parent’s.
I will never forget the utter devastation on your mum’s face when she lifted the shed door to see all her work reduced to ashes, nor the stoic way your uncle faced up to having just the clothes on his back.
Still, things were set to get stranger. Weeks and weeks without power, septic or telecommunications, the constant threat of more fires and then, finally, flooding rain.
We’d survived fires and floods – where was the plague, we laughed – until it wasn’t funny.
The coronavirus, COVID-19, had obviously been around since 2019 but in my mind it first became a frightening reality in March 2020.
Here was a highly transmissible virus that could, and was, killing people around the world – and how did Australians react? We hoarded toilet paper.
Don’t ask me to explain it now, I couldn’t then. It just happened. And suddenly our supermarket shelves were empty, we were locked down, unable to visit family or friends, only allowed to leave the house for essential purposes.
We thought it would be short and sharp but it lingered on.
When we found out you were coming, it was like one of the first really good things to happen in a very long time.
But even then it was strange – who could be at your birth? In COVID times, it wasn’t a given. Who could visit you afterwards? You are two months old now and lockdowns are still making Facetime – is that still a thing? – the only way your aunt can see you.
We are lucky though, because we have each other. I’m sure this will be hard for you to believe, but heartless governments are stopping people from visiting dying family members because of the virus. Elderly people are being isolated from those they love for their own protection.
Babies are being born, funerals are being held, and the people who want to be there, can’t.
Borders are constantly opening and closing, seemingly on a whim, and we are isolated from the rest of the world.
At the moment, people in some cities have to wear masks to walk down the street and we all need to “check-in” when we visit a shop or restaurant. We are encouraged to wear masks inside, stay 1.5 metres apart and you can’t dance at a wedding. I hope you are laughing at that idea now.
And even with all this, we have people unwilling to get vaccinated, to build our immunity against this devastating virus. Indeed, we have people who don’t even believe the virus exists.
And Charli, dear Charli, well before you get a chance to read this, I really hope that’s true.