Back to not normal

This is supposed to be about my last confinement blog post. It feels weird saying so, and seems out of touch with reality, but hey! Confinement is officially ending on Monday. We won’t have to carry any attestation any more, we will be able to meet our friends. Masks are only half mandatory. Waiting for Godot in a bin half full…

There will be no travelling for a while, though, and we won’t go to campus on a regular basis before summer break, that is, technically, until the fall. Thankfully, more and more colleagues seem ready to consider talking about fall term and I expect this to keep us busy this and next month. The next best thing: having a plan until Christmas. But then? When will we have time to think of what shall come after the fall, and act on it? What our job should be like, what our life should be like, and what they really will come to be. 

I work what feels very little, but I suspect it is mostly because of how I work, and because I have decided to juste take the time, considering there is no way of doing otherwise if the four of us want to stay sane. Of course it is unfair, in a sense, since the other three get quite the service provided by me. But having tried otherwise, and considering what is ahead of us, I have come to the conclusion that, for now, this is for the best.

I sit by my kids while they do their homework in the morning: can’t say that I help them in an essential way or that they need me non-stop, but I still have to answer a question every once in a while – enough  to prevent me from undertaking any work that would require concentration. Then I cook lunch or go to campus to distribute the meals provided by the city for students that have lost their income. In the early afternoon, I usually do e-mails, then my kids want to do some sport and I sit by them, encourage them and make sure they don’t hurt themselves. An hour and a half later, it’s time to cook dinner. I have another hour or so in the evening when they are in bed, and the whole schedule is terribly constricted every time I have a videoconference, which is pretty much every other day. E-mails don’t get answered on a daily basis, but since I receive much less than usual, I manage to keep up.

I miss being alone, I miss traveling, I miss not cooking, I miss not talking for hours. I miss working for three hours in a row on something I find truly interesting.

But then again: it is the season where the grass grows, blossom turn to fruit, and the birds accompany the day, starting so early that I open the kitchen glass door to the garden to hear them while I breakfast alone in the morning, even if the cold air makes me freeze. I hear the birds, those birds exactly that remind me of my childhood, of days getting longer and me going out to play ball outside after dinner, watching white strains of cloud cross the sky as if to make it wider.

There is no alarm in the morning but that of the birds, and of the one hen that lays eggs a little further down the block.

I hope to remember, once this suspension of time is gone, that we moved on, at that pace – reflecting on the evening breeze, and how much softer it is than the crisp morning air; trying to get the last echoes of the last birds in the last sunbeams of the day -, we moved on and were moved, listened and looked, tried to help, tried to care and protect, waited, and couldn’t, wouldn’t want to go back to what used to be normal.

Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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