2020 was a year we will never forget. Amsterdam Mama and regular contributor Audrey Coggins shares her funny, poignant take on a year to remember ... or forget.
Firstly, 2020, you suck.
I just realised: 2020 in Cantonese is “easy nothing, easy nothing”. So perhaps I should have known. But it’s sucked. Every area of our lives have been curtailed.
Except the home.
Unlike in my home country, Australia, here in Amsterdam houses are rare and costly, so apartments and flats are the norm for Amsterdam-dwellers. Most of us live in apartments less than 120 sq metre. To add to this coziness, the initial lockdown for COVID19 in March meant that overnight, working from home (WFH) was instated. Schools were closed, mandated to run online.
So, suddenly (word not used for drama!) all members of the family were confined to spend all day, everyday in these small apartments. Save for walks and runs and exercise, suddenly (again, not dramatic use!) we had to learn to survive and thrive in very close quarters.
Now, Dec 2020, we’re back to hard lockdown due to alarming, unrelenting, COVID19 cases here in the Netherlands. Parks, museums, schools, shopping outlets, cafes, restaurants, gyms, childcare facilities, places of worship, offices… all closed.
2020, you suck.
Circumstances in my childhood drove me, as an adult, to create a warm and safe haven in my home space. Since independence from my parents, I have moved and lived in 13 homes. This current Amsterdam apartment is my 14th. And here too, despite the hodge-podge of landlord-furniture and our own curated pieces from Australia, I still strive to create that haven, for me and my loved ones.
My home, my haven for myself, is no longer. Thank you very much, you beast of a 2020. I no longer have the 6-7 hours daily during the week to myself, to potter around #ultimatehomebody. My beloved husband and two daughters are here. All day. Everyday. 2020 has tested that haven-home like nothing else.
Don’t get me wrong, I've always relished the evenings, when everyone comes home to gather for dinner at our dining table. For years, my soul felt complete when the husband returned from work and both my daughters were home, with me, behind locked doors, safe from the evils out there, and the wallabies waiting to pounce. Beastly creatures (koalas, kangaroos, wombats) and cuddly things (snakes and cane toads) were kept out - occasionally a spider dared enter - but mostly, when the four of us are eating at the dining table, I felt complete.
2020, you were difficult to like.
“What can I eat?”
“I only do gluten free.”
“I’m lactose intolerant.”
“I need chocolate.”
“Can I have something to eat?”
“I want something warm—we’re not eating cold/sandwiches.”
“What’s for lunch?”
“What’s for dinner?”
“I am so bored, what’s in the fridge?”
“There’s nothing to eat!”
“There’s nothing in the fridge!!!!”
All day. Everyday. Three people, excluding me.
2020, you were the year the dishwasher ran at least twice a day.
2020, you were the Year of the Rat Netflix.
(Call me a bad parent. Call me a bad language teacher. But I think there is merit to little children watching good kids’ TV. Both my daughters have wide vocabularies—neither I nor my husband know anything about the types of unicorns that exist. They have learned to speak from Dora, Peppa Pig, Sarah & Duck, The Wiggles, Bob the Builder etc. My youngest, 6, learned a lot of Dutch from Ruby Regenboog. My oldest, 14, learned all about vampires, boyfriends and a healthy sex life from Netfix.)
2020, you suck.
But ... this year, the 14 year old has learned to cook her lunches—fried rice. From scratch. She’s even been trained to wash up after herself in the kitchen.
2020, you were tough.
But ... this year, the 14 year old has come to appreciate that her parents do actually know about life and relationships. Prior to COVID19, the 14 year old considered us to be irrelevant in all that is current. She even learnt that her parents had been amongst the pioneers to use hip acronyms like BRB and BBL and TTYL nearly 2.5 decades ago.
This year, the 14 year old has had more heart to heart chats with me about her friends, her heart, her studies, her teachers, her clothes, her nails… than since she was 8.
2020, you drove us stir-crazy.
But ... this year, my family and I have learned to be relatively content to be around each other 2/47.
This is … a feat. Our family are historically cave-people. We like our solitude. In Australia, we were in our rambling house had with many, many corners where we could to isolate ourselves from each other. Now, we are in close quarters.
We have learned to truly appreciate …headphones!
Picture this: The 7 year old is watching some child’s program on repeat on Netflix, I am learning how to watercolour via Youtube, my husband is having a conference call, and my older daughter is listening to the latest whatever-group. All in the same room.
2020, this is the year bloody CookieSwirlC drove us mental with her high-pitched voice and a billion toys that instantly made my 6 year old’s blood boil with envy.
2020 has seen me drink 200000 cups of home made tea. Our favourite cafes sit silent, fairy-lights twinkling sadly and chairs on tables. Ghost-villages courtesy of COVID19.
2020 has brought the postal and delivery staff nationwide to its knees, as we learn to tame the crazy at home with online purchases. Behold the toy that acts, walks and demands like a real puppy and its postal van companion and the polyester-blend scarf that doubles as a t-shirt and evening wear. I recall looking at wonder at the video selling the rolling pin with special cutouts of little children playing in the grass, for those special cookies I would no doubt make, as featured in the video. Now it is languishing away in the drawer, narry a use.
2020 has seen the recycling plants worldwide go into overdrive, rushing to meet the needs of a world that has gone online-order postal. Our local paper recycling bins are always full to overflow.
2020 has seen nature given a chance to recover, to heal and gain traction over human greed.
2020 has seen the demise of so many small businesses—and equally, the rise of new small businesses specially catering to COVID19-wrought situations.
2020 has seen the demise of so many relationships. Sure, this is an ebb-and-flow phenomenon today, but the enforced close-quarters scenario has not been beneficial for everyone.
But this has been the year that I’ve come to appreciate that my home truly is a haven for us and our loved ones. We have laughed more than ever this year. We have cried more than ever this year. We have bickered. We have hugged. We have cuddled. We have had long “leave me alone” baths. We have had vacuum-cleaner-complaints. We have had laundry exhaustion. We have enjoyed cooking and baking together.
In finally leaving 2020, I cannot help but look back and see the relationships in my little family tighten. A few new friendships built here, over the 2.5 years we have been in the Netherlands, have strengthened—even forged in fire and brimstone. I also have a new appreciation for walking and walking, just to get away from the mundanity of life.
I realise that this isn’t the case for soooo many families who are going through some genuinely difficult times with relationships, children, mental and physical health issues. I realise that my complaints are largely external and so many here in Amsterdam and beyond are having internal situations that are way more painful, more traumatic and serious. I don’t discount that—and if you knew me personally, you’d know how much it breaks my heart. This year hasn’t been easy for me or my close, loved ones in a few ways, but I’ve chosen to keep this article… more flippant than in real life. I pray the coming year for you brings some relief, and some rest.
2021, I regard you with a fair amount of trepidation.
2021, don’t be 2020.
Please. Aim higher, 2021. Kick COVID19 in its butt!
Audrey Coggins is *that* Crazy Asian Lady. That one that is working to develop a strawberry and olive chiffon cake recipe that wins. That one that doesn't take herself seriously - by choice. She has been Amsterdam Mama's Chief Copyeditor, sometime-Content-Manager, and currently is working on being a illustrator.