Marshmallows in 2020

Updated: May 16

I remember that one evening so clearly.

It was a beautiful evening and the children had played in the garden of the cottage most of the day. It was one of these nights we were going to have a campfire, with marshmallows and a triple chocolate homemade dip the kids had made with their daddy that morning. It’s still Noah’s favourite, after all these years. He had turned eight that summer. It was August, his favourite month of the year. “Could we have an August in the winter?” he once asked, deadly serious. He loved the winter snow and skating, but summers in Canada are mostly warm and sunny, and he used to adore swimming in the sea and camping trips. He still does. The stars were brighter than usual that night, as was the full moon, shining through the starry sky. Emily was trying to tickle her brother, and asked him for a cuddle. He laughed; she put her arms around him and kissed him on his left cheek. He then ran inside with his father to watch a film. The wind was getting slightly colder when Emily asked in a tired tone, “Mummy, why didn’t we go see Grandma?” I embraced her. “Well my darling, there’s a new virus called coronavirus travelling throughout the world, and a lot of people in the world are working together to understand the virus, so that we can protect ourselves from it. Many of us need to stay near our home and keep our distance at this time to stop the virus from spreading.

Many wonderful nurses and doctors, who we are grateful for, are working very hard and taking good care of the people who got unwell because of the virus, as it can affect each person differently.” I remember thinking she was attentive, so I continued: “Grandma needs to rest now and lives an hour’s flight away, but don’t you worry. We’ll be able to go back to her house and see her” She nodded, like a seven-year-old who proudly understood.“Okay. And even Uncle Felix who lives on the other side of the ocean, as you showed me on the map? Is he staying mostly near his home right now?”

“Yes darling, he’s at home, in England,” I replied. The look on her face was priceless, before she added: “Should most people work together? Do we have to work with people we get along with less than others?” Surprised by her question, I replied: “Well, it depends. Sometimes we do but not always. It’s best to work alongside people who encourage and support us, if possible.” “And what if I’m mad at the dog, Bubu, that made me drop my ice cream on the grass the other day? Does it mean I still have to say hello to him, next time I see him?” she asked. “It would be very kind if you did, but that’s for you to decide. If you are kind to others because you want to be, it also means you are brave, and a lot of great things often come out of brave kindness,” I said. She kept talking: “So, a lot of people in the world should help each other and be kind as often they can?” At this point, I remember thinking she would go on for ever. With patience, I replied, “Well, sometimes, we have to put ourselves first, but you see darling, the more people help each together, the better.We are all different, but a little bit of the same at the same time.” She looked at me straight in the eyes, “Oh, like Noah and I both like ice cream but I prefer bubble gum ice cream and he prefers maple ice cream?” I continued to explain “Yes. A little bit like that. And a little bit like some teachers prefer to teach in schools instead of online and some musicians prefer to perform in front of a live audience.” She nodded, so I went on. “Or a little bit like we all need food, but we all eat different kinds of food.” I’m not sure if it all made sense to her back then. She then asked, “Is it all bad?” I kissed her on the forehead and said “oh no, it’s not all bad. Sometimes, we have to try and see beauty where it can be hard to see it.” I remember her next question clearly: “And what about everything else?” I smiled at her with my eyes. “I don’t know darling. What do you mean?” I replied in a light-hearted voice.

She said nothing for a minute; then added: “Are trees putting on different shoes and learning a new dance? I’ve never seen them this green.” She didn’t let me answer. “Is the sky changing into a lighter blue and taking a rest from planes? I haven’t seen many fly lately, mostly birds! Is the rain making flowers prettier and giving them more colour? Are the stars and moon now sleeping underneath the clouds? I can see them much more clearly now.

Are tomatoes in the garden becoming a bit shy? They became so red! And if people are helping each other, does this mean people in the world are turning into superheroes?” I wasn’t sure what to tell her, but I replied hesitantly:

“Some, yes, but not everyone is a superhero.There are always different characters in each story, but in this life, you are who you are and accept who you want to be.” I said. “Can I have more marshmallows?” She left me speechless with a smile.I paused for a while.

“Yes darling. Let’s have two more each.” I thought she was done talking but then she asked, “Mum, who are your favourite superheroes?” I embraced her once more and told her,“It’s you and Noah, darling.” §

I remember that night so clearly, and so does Emily. Both Noah and Emily are still my superheroes; they always will be. They taught me a lot and I am proud of them, and their Grandma had always been a great teacher to us all. Years later, Emily is now a writer and published her first book to inspire equality. Throughout the years, I suspected she’d move to London one day. Noah is now a music teacher and inspires children to learn every day. He can now play five musical instruments.

2020, It was a year when a lot of us learned about many

different things, probably more than usual. No matter our differences, who we were, or who we’ve become, we each shared experiences, albeit in our own way.

But it was real, and it was there for all of us, we felt it, the feeling of uncertainty. Of course, there were many challenges along the way, but that side of the story is not one for me to tell. It was quite some time ago now, when we sat outside away from the cherry blossom trees; we didn’t light the campfire that night.

I remember that evening so clearly, when I first thought we’d only talk about marshmallows and triple chocolate dip.

Francoise Helene


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