The COVID Birthday Bubble
Months before his fifth birthday, Neo started asking questions. He was already concerned. "Mom, with the virus, will I still be able to have my party at laser tag?" "What about cake?" and, the big one, "Will I still get presents from my friends?!"
It was April. We were in full lock-down. Planet Lazer was closed along with every other local business that was not an essential service. With social distancing in full effect, sharing cake, along with hugs and playdates, was out. Each day, we were just rolling with our new reality, trying to stay safe, manage anxieties, eek out new routine, avoid cabin fever, and savour the silver linings amid all of the change, strangeness and heaps of unknowns. Who knew what life might look like in four months' time, when Neo turned five.
'With social distancing in full effect, sharing cake, along with hugs and playdates, was out.'
I knew I had to reassure him. So I told Neo: "No matter what, your special day will absolutely certainly be extra-special." Laser tag or no laser tag. This I could promise.
By June, a window of safety had opened, as we saw it. Our collective response to COVID was working. B.C.'s curve had flattened. We had zero community spread. My son had even returned to preschool, along with half of his class, for the remaining three weeks before summer.
Things were looking up. We were getting out again, social distancing and supporting our local restaurants and shops. What a relief! Even the grim reality that fall and flu season could bring a second wave, wasn't going to put a damper on us enjoying life and this new semblance of "normal."
The invitations went out. To keep our bubble tight, Neo invited only the kids who'd returned to class with him. At the party, we had three hand sanitizer stations. The kids knew the drill. Neo chose a "fair" theme since all such beloved events have been cancelled this year. We built an ice-cream stand and painted it red and white stripes. There were games, prizes, cotton candy, corndogs, carnival music, and a piñata thrown in for good measure ... and, of course, cake, and presents.
It was epic. The kids had a blast. Neo was beaming. "Best Party Ever," he reiterated through yawns at bedtime. And we have memories to last a lifetime. I'm so glad we jumped through that window, while we had it.
Just the day before, I'd been so immersed in cake-decorating and final details, that I'd totally missed the news reports of the new COVID outbreak in our city due to travellers who'd brought it to the area and spread it while partying on vacation at a local hotel and resort. While cleaning up after Neo's party, with visions of ferris wheels and candy apples still dancing in my head, my hubby finally told me.
And just like that, our window shut.
Thankfully, no one in our little bubble got sick or exposed. At that point, as a family, we decided to reign it in again. We wear masks in all indoor public spaces. We've stopped eating at our favourite local restaurants. They're all in too close proximity to our city's most popular beaches, and at the height of tourist season it's just not worth the risk.
'And just like that, our window shut.'
We are choosing fresh air, six feet, and the peace of mind of smaller neighbourhood beach accesses and green spaces; mostly the comfort of our own backyard, which, to be honest, doesn't cramp our style much at all: family bocci ball tourneys, dips in Neo's 10-ft kiddie pool, eating out of our own abundant garden, bbq'ing lots and patio dining, fam music jams, and, generally, laying low and making the best of it.
Life's too precious to ignore the risks of COVID, behave recklessly, or even share space with others who might. Every sacrifice is worth it. We are doing our part and hoping in our hearts that others do theirs. Our individual and collective consciousness, in these times, matters greatly. Eventually, this will all pass. And we want to be here, when it does.