By closing the windows to keep flies out, that heavy Christmas Eve lunch ended up defining our vacation time.
On Christmas Day I received a text from a family member saying he had tested positive on a rapid antigen test. Everyone at lunch needed to isolate themselves.
I broke the news to my living boyfriend, who was preparing to support a busy Sydney emergency department. We wouldn’t see each other for a while. The isolation would also derail my two children’s plans: their trip with their father and the downtime I wanted. But it would only be seven days, I thought. I had no idea we would be stuck inside for twice as long as the infection slowly made its way into my house, overturning my vacation dreams.
I got off first. On the second day a cough, on the third day my throat was closed, I had headaches and the flu. I put a mask around my children and assumed that a few days would be added to our grief. I received my positive PCR result on day six, along with, surprisingly, my eight year old daughter. But my eternally arrogant six-year-old son held on and tested negative.
I ran the dishwasher every day, swept dirty tissues, served meals outside, and hid in cupboards reading UV RATs like some crazy extra from CSI Sydney. By the seventh day we were in the home stretch. Children visualized opening Christmas presents with Dad. Then on New Years Day, with freedom only 24 hours, my son tested positive, resetting our isolation clock. We would be stuck inside for at least a week.
I was devastated. Already exhausted from single parenthood from illness and persistent fatigue, I sat on my bedroom floor and cried.
By then, I would have come out of the COVID closet on Facebook. A friend sent a ‘congratulations, I’m recovering from COVID too’ message which changed my mindset. We renamed the house as the COVID Recovery Treehouse and brought back the biggest YouTube dance party hits from the lockdown.
Ultimately, I’ll come back to those sweaty hugs and coordinated dance moves with a bit of COVID nostalgia. Looking back, I wish we all tested positive on the same day. I know it’s important to do what you can to prevent infection, but catching COVID-19 together would have made isolation shorter and more tolerable for gay children and their tired mothers. I never thought COVID-19 would keep us housebound for the duration of more than one illness.