Australia is closed to me. I’ve spent the better part of a year, and most of my spare moments therein, dreaming about how to get back from the US, where I live. When the Prime Minister announced that Australians needed to come home now, in the early days of the pandemic, or else they might not be able to later, I was extremely pregnant – beyond the time any doctor would allow me to fly, and, as it happens, on the verge of giving birth early.
Had I heeded ScoMo’s call and ignored the doctor’s, my baby might have arrived in an economy-class loo, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. When my baby was a newborn, and I spent my days pacing around coaxing her to sleep, I would work through various escape scenarios in my head. The pandemic was worsening and borders were closing. Qantas had grounded its jets in the middle of the desert and that image stuck with me, a symbol of my utterly immovable fate.
I counted the days until my baby was old enough for her first round of immunisations – the time at which we would not be wantonly irresponsible parents for taking her on a long-haul flight. But then she got her shots, and she was still so small. I couldn’t comprehend embarking on that journey.
Not yet. Not, also, with a toddler in tow. Summer arrived, and COVID became a fact of life. It seemed impossible to imagine that I had one day in the not-too-distant past hopped on a flight across the Atlantic to attend a friend’s wedding. She is a close friend, and it was a fabulous wedding. We danced in the rain – and then I got pneumonia. But still.