How many of you have started home renovation or decoration projects plans during lockdown? Schemes which seemed like a great idea at the time, but now make you think that it would be easier to come out the front door, lock it behind you and just find somewhere else to live?
Unfortunately I would have to admit to all of the above. I must have been either particularly pliable the day that my three children came to me, asking if they could swap bedrooms because, without putting much thought into what it entailed, I said yes.
I vaguely remember thinking that at least it would mean a good clear out of the teenagers’ rooms, where the light of day is almost as unwelcome a visitor as I am, and that it was a project that would keep them occupied during lockdown.
What has actually happened is that, for the last three weeks or so, their rooms, the hall upstairs and downstairs and every other bit of available space in the house has been taken up with boxes, clothes and toys as we try to juggle sleeping arrangements...
The first week, all went well, and the kids were enthusiastic about having a new space to decorate and in which to sleep. But then, as the novelty wore off and the lockdown eased, they suddenly found other, more urgently pressing things to do, like stare at their phones.
I politely cajoled them for a fortnight to finish what they started but, while they made all the right sorts of noises about getting stuck in, it was evident from the mountain of cardboard boxes still around me, that nothing was happening.
So, this week I had to unleash my inner sergeant major, insisting that all other activities be halted until the house was back in order. I had them up at the crack of dawn, with the chorus of complaints drowning out the birdsong outside. We moved desks and wardrobes, rugs and curtains and put each box to be unpacked into the right room, leaving me able to see the hall carpet for the first time in weeks.
The older two were left to their own devices, to sort out their belongings, and I tackled my youngest’s bits and bobs. Up until now, she has been in the tiniest room of the house. She was a late, very wonderful, surprise addition to the family and, when we found out she was on the way, we had to move quickly to free up a room as a nursery. The boxroom was the simplest solution.
Given the size of the space she was moving out of, I assumed that it wouldn’t take me long to unpack and organise her stuff. How wrong I was. I had forgotten that I had stored several large plastic containers of photos in the bottom of her wardrobe and, when I stumbled across them, opened the lid and discovered the snapshots of family, going back decades, I knew the rest of the day was lost.
There were photos of my three as newborns, heading out to nursery school for the first time and blowing out three, four, five and more candles on their birthday cakes. There were pictures of my sister and I, dressed in the best, and simultaneously worst, fashions from the 1980s.
But the ones that floored me were the images of my daddy. He passed away four years ago and while I have photos of him with us and with his grandchildren all around my home, I hadn’t seen these images for years. Pictures of him as a young man, with long hair and a beard, posing on a camping holiday, others of him in the early days of his marriage to my mum, both of them so young and dolled up to the nines, heading off on a night out, and some lovely photos of him with my sister and I as children, sitting on his knee, laughing our heads off at his jokes.
The last few weeks may have been hard going, and there were definitely times I wish I’d said no to my lot when they asked to rejiggle their bedrooms, but those few hours, reliving precious memories, sitting on the floor of my baby’s bedroom, made it all so worth it…