Laure Baudot’s work has appeared in publications including The Antigonish Review, The Danforth Review, Found Press, Prairie Fire, and Wasafiri Magazine of International Contemporary Writing. Her debut collection of short stories is This One Because of the Dead (Cormorant Books 2019). Her karate blog can be found at here. Currently a psychotherapist-in-training, she lives in Toronto with her husband and three children.
Behind the Front – a Health Care Worker’s Family Pandemic Journal
20 July 2020
I read in the Globe that Comet Neowise, a comet with a split tail, will be visible in our hemisphere for the next few nights.
We have three children. We lost most of our childcare in the beginning of the pandemic, and getting up early is the only way I can write, exercise, read. My husband is an E.R. doc. I have contract jobs, so when Dear Husband (DH) isn’t at the hospital, we take turns doing our desk work. He has considerably more and better paid work than I, and since he took a pay cut early in the pandemic and we need the money, we have an agreement that he will lay claim to most of the working hours.
My four-year-old (Young Son or YS), rises at 6:30. I try to persuade him to watch T.V. so that I can do some yoga, to no avail. Unlike his older siblings, he hates T.V. I give up and try to do yoga anyway. When I’m in downward dog, he climbs on top of me and drapes himself over my back. I can smell the sleep on his pyjamas.
D.H. puts two loaves of bread in the oven and then tackles his mountain of paperwork, while I wrangle YS into his shoes so we can go out. The playgrounds are shuttered, but YS has recently learned to ride a two-wheeler. For two hours, we circle a small soccer field. He bikes while I jog, my pounding feet punctuated by my exclamations of encouragement. “Good job, buddy! Great biking!”
At exactly 11:15, I talk him into going home. I’ve committed a half an hour a day to working on my novel. Carol Shields said once that when her kids were young she wrote between the time she picked up their socks and when they came home for lunch. I recite her words to myself when I feel the desperation that comes from parenting young children, which leaves no time or energy for intellectual work.
Karl Ove Knausgaard captures parents’ complex feelings toward their children when he writes about dealing with his toddler’s tantrums:
The corrosive part, of course, is the awareness that being nice to them is not of the slightest help when I am in the thick of it, dragged down into a quagmire of tears and frustration. And, once in the quagmire, each further action only serves to plunge me deeper. And at least as corrosive is the awareness that I am dealing with children. That it is children who are dragging me down. There is something deeply shameful about this. In such situations I am proably as far from the person I aspire to be as possible. (My Struggle, Part I)
I persuade YS to watch Peppa Pig, and I get to work. My limited time frame forces me not to censor myself. Later, when I share snippets to my writing group, they will praise the work. They will make me feel like I’m producing some of the best material of my life. For now, I park my kid in front of a screen and write with the desperation of a person walking through a desert who glimpses an oasis, who runs to catch up to it before it reveals itself to be a mirage.
DH leaves for work. He takes nothing with him. He keeps his work bag in the car. It’s the early stages of the pandemic and nobody knows whether the virus is transmissible via surfaces, so he keeps his work materials out of the house.
At work, he will don his greens, cap, mask, shield, and isolation gown. For eight to ten hours, he won’t eat, drink, or pee – for one, it’s too tiring to remove and replace his PPE to do these tasks. Some people are still downplaying the importance of PPE, but he believes that being in the presence of others without PPE is hazardous. Months later, when colleagues get sick and COVID outbreaks are declared in the hospitals, he will feel vindicated in his decision never to remove his equipment during his shifts.
23 July 2020
Today, I had childcare. I got some work done, and by the evening I’m so energized by a feeling of accomplishment that I take an evening walk with DH. As we walk through Christie Pits, we notice passers-by craning their necks, some with binoculars.
“Right,” I say. “The comet!”
We circle the park again, straining to see the astronomical sight. But the cloud cover is too great, and we see nothing, not even constellations.
24 July 2020
Hoping to glimpse the comet, we leave the children still sleeping and drive to the darkest park we can think of, in the city’s west end.
The humidity is rising, and the combination of fog and the yellow bulbs from the park’s lamplights lends some corners of the landscape a yellowish, eerie glow. We stand in the middle of a soccer field and look up. Even in this supposedly dark place, there is too much light from the city beyond to see more than a handful of stars, sparking from a few, black patches.
DH has a day and night off. In a last effort to see the meteor, we put YS to bed and leave him and his older brother in the care of my teenage daughter, and drive out of the city. We’ve never gone so far from the youngest without an adult present before. Driving west on the 401, I stare at the reddish glow of the sunset through the clouds and fret.
“They’ll be fine,” says DH.
We arrive in a little town on Lake Simcoe. It’s pitch black. We leave the car on a side street. We thought we might sit on a beach, but the beach is fenced off. We debate jumping the barrier but decide not to. We plant ourselves in a parkette, only to be driven out by mosquitoes, so we retreat to the beach side of the road.
The Black Lives Movement has been active for the last few weeks, making salient issues I knew about but didn’t think of on a daily basis. DH and I have always taken night drives. Once, when DH we were both students, we drove to Niagara Falls on a whim. Fuelled by happiness, I must have been driving erratically, because I was stopped by a cop. “Have you been drinking?” he asked me, sniffing audibly when I scrolled down the window. I hadn’t, and he let us go, with a warning. Looking back, I wonder if, had I not been white, he would have let us go so easily.
Now, standing in the darkness, a stranger in a small Ontario town, I think to myself that, were I black, I might not dare take these nightly adventures, for fear of being the target of racism.
DH has downloaded an astronomy app on his phone. We pace back and forth on the rural road, hoping that the cars seemingly barrelling toward us won’t hit us, and look through the app at the sky. But, either because of the cloud cover or our inexperience in all matters astronomical, we can’t find the meteor. We do, however, manage to make out some constellations. For the first time since I was a child, I pick out Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
On our way home, we text my daughter to check on the kids. We pick up some McDonalds fries. My escape from domesticity, coupled with the mundane nature of searching for a comet, have made me feel happy. We drive toward home through a quiet city – still under lockdown – the taste of cheap oil and salt on our tongues.
Laure Baudot visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Dominik Parisien, Sonal Champsee, and Kirby. Our guest speaker, Cree-Métis scholar Deanna Reder, will give her talk on, “Supporting Indigenous Authors: from the archives to the Indigenous Voices Awards”.
Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.