2020 was going to be such a big year for my family after a particularly turbulent 2019 and we had so much to look forward to. My partner’s 50th birthday in April, my dad’s 70th in May and my only brother’s wedding on the same weekend, my sister’s 30th, my son’s 18th and finally my brother’s 40th in November. We had so much planned we didn’t know if we’d be able to fit it all in, but then lockdown was announced and even though the sun was splitting the trees outside as the days at home rolled in, there was a great sense of doom in the air that we all battled to get our heads around.

Secrets in the Snow

Secrets in the Snow

We started off really well, considering we live in a pretty small house and there are six of us here full time (my eldest daughter has flown the coop and lives nearby with her boyfriend – not seeing her or my dad back then is too painful even to think about again). Within our own cocoon, our youngest, Sonny, built huts indoors with his big brothers, my partner took to the garden and planted enough vegetables to literally last a pandemic, and as A Levels and uni exams were thrown into disarray, to be honest all sense of reality seemed so far out of reach. The garden and the good weather outside became a lifeline amidst all the panic – at first it felt like a long holiday, albeit at home but we were glad to have each other.

As someone who has worked from home for many years, the main disruption to my working day was all these people who were lying around in pyjamas most of the time! But thankfully my words still flowed and I managed to deliver the final version of Secrets in the Snow to my publishers, HarperCollins and brainstorm my next project. I think being creative helped with my sanity levels as I could get lost in a story so easily – a great way to escape from reality for a few hours a day.

Soon every day became like Groundhog Day as far as any sense of routine was concerned, so I came up with an idea to entertain the family members we were missing by setting up a private Facebook group called ‘Corona Cousins’ which was an instant hit as we shared photos from our archives and reminisced on days gone by. A ‘Friday Night Live’ slot was born whereby each household would take turns to do a party piece live to almost 100 others (I come from a very big family!). The results were hilarious – forget your run of the mill Zoom quizzes - we had Country Music Medleys, a Sound of Music tribute, a Village News gossip slot some Bongo Bingo and one of my cousin’s even developed two characters (Bridie and Patricia) which I swear could have a TV series of their own! Hilarious!

I know I’m blessed to have my family around me and a job I can adapt around my family’s needs as we all try to figure this all out, but I truly feel so sorry for those living alone or who are vulnerable and in fear for health reasons. I also feel bad for the youth whose lives have been paused and whose futures look bleak. These are difficult times and like many others, I really hope that the way we are living now is not the ‘new normal.’ We need our friends, our families, our colleagues. We need hugs, we need visitors, we need music and dancing, we need spontaneous travel and events that light us up inside. We need to see smiles, not masks.

Like the rest of the world does, I really hope this all ends soon.

Secrets in the Snow by Emma Heatherington is out now in paperback (HarperCollins)