The New Normal
- Dawn Dumont | April 21, 2020
We knew it was coming but we didn’t know it was coming. We saw it in China and then it moved across Europe and – Italy seemed the one that resonated with everyone in the west and then…
…And then all of our lives changed in a hurry. All those things you thought were so essential – going to an office for work, having to have a Starbucks coffee every morning, hanging out with your friends on weekend – those things just slipped away. Sometimes one by one, sometimes all at once.
I will be fine, I bragged on Facebook, I grew up in a dysfunctional home. I was joking but there is some truth in the statement. The word dysfunctional is a misnomer. My family was very functional; it just wasn’t Cosby Show normal (although we all know that show was masking some creepy shit.) My parents would routinely break up because of my dad’s drinking and my mom would swoop us up in the middle of the night and we would leave him. It always felt like a grand adventure.
Wrong shoes, missed homework, returning library books – all that forgotten as you ran out the door to the warm car waiting outside to take us to someplace, safe and exciting.
In the backseat, my three siblings and I would be wrapped up in blankets as I watched the stars through the windows. We would head to my auntie Squaw’s house in Lebret where she would have the door open and a bed made in the living room. She would be sitting in the kitchen, a kettle on for tea because this was going to be a good talk.
One time, sans car, we left on foot. We walked down the road in the dark to my Uncle Frank’s house. The road was well known to us, we ran back and forth on it all day but it felt different in the night. How many walks do we take at night? Hearing the crickets, our dog running through the brush beside us smelling and chasing old toms also on their way to somewhere. And when we got to our destination, Uncle Frank’s house, the door was open. As we slipped off to sleep, Uncle would strum his guitar and we would fall asleep to the sound of old country music (which was fitting, my parent’s relationship seemed to be a living, breathing Country song.)
When I was in my twenties, I would tell these stories to my friends and they always seemed to miss the point. Instead of smiles of understanding, they would look sad and say, “Oh you poor things.” And while we were poor – I cannot stress that enough – like one pair of jeans poor, we were always together and safe.
During this time, my toddler and his cousin run through the house chasing one another. They play games together. They chatter and yell as only two toddlers can. Last night, they were running over the furniture and teasing the dog until he was sweating with excitement. They know there is a virus out there and that’s why we can’t go swimming or play in the playground. They know that they can’t go into stores anymore and they just nod and tell me I have to buy them toys. (Not a whole lot of toys in Sobeys, just a bunch of people moving fast and avoiding eye contact.)
When I was little, my Great Uncle Ed used to live in a small house next to us. He would come to visit every night and sit at the kitchen table while we chattered to him about all kinds of things. No matter what we told him – “I got an A!”, “I hate my friend Jacky!”, “I set a fire!” – he would always smile and nod his head and say, “go on, go on.”
In his memory, I got a tattoo a month ago. It says, “kiyam.” People tell me it means, “let it be, let it go.” But whenever I look at it, I think of my Uncle Ed and to me, it means: “go on, keep going.”
My childhood was not “normal”, but it taught me that rules can slip away at any moment. It’s a truth that stays – that family – whatever that looks like to you – is all that matters.