It all feels oddly like play: the homeschooling, gathering groceries for the week, rationing out new comic books, marking time with beverage habits. Staying home feels like playing house. How strange, that in a time of true crisis our home suddenly feels full of charades. It might be that we are slowly losing our minds. Thom put on a suit and tie the other day for dinner. Everyone else was in sweatpants. He gave a “presentation”, standing and speaking with feigned authority. We all clapped.
There are half finished art and Lego and block projects everywhere. The boys move from game to game to game, seemingly less and less interested in the “real world” and more and more in their imagined ones. I am the same – fiction is absorbing me in a way it hasn’t in years. I find myself thinking about the characters the way I think about my friends, imagining their responses to things.
I am interested in my appetite for play in the face of this lockdown and the unfolding dread that has caused it. Is this how children feel all the time? Is their capacity for fantasy partly derived from their limited freedom and the giant unknown? Are games a sort of response to fear and absurdity? Is it just simply that imagination is a lifeline, or more complicated than that? All I know is that the ridiculousness in this time is fueling me, and I’m clinging to it. In my experience, where adults dismay and panic, children often adapt and accept, which leaves room for frivolity. And this frivolity, unlike its adult counterpart, does not attempt to make what is awful into what is good. Children are surprised by neither joy nor pain. There are sad things and there are happy things. They don’t rule each other out, or even overcome one another. They both simply exist.
In a New York Times article a couple weeks back, Alain De Botton wrote about the coronavirus through the lens of Camus’s The Plague. He wrote: “recognizing the absurd should lead us not to despair, but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.” I think I am watching my children do precisely this. They are currently playing a game in which they are running from something scary and terrible. They are expressing true fear and hiding under couch cushions. But then, they are laughing – after fear, they know, comes a certain release.