Moving back to my childhood home at the age of 28 because of a global pandemic was not where I pictured 2020 taking me… but as the saying goes, ‘When life gives you mushy old lemons, you may as well isolate for 8 weeks and learn how to bake a lemon sponge.’ Or something like that.
Moving back in with my parents is like being a student again. We drink constantly, listen to loud music, sleep in late and potter around for hours in the day pretending to ‘do something useful’. Then repeat.
Despite the awful reality that is the state of the world right now, here are 10 reasons why isolating with my folks is surprisingly good fun…
They want to drink every night
My mum drinks sparkling wine almost every evening. Why? Because, why the hell not. She’s retired and she likes prosecco. She even has a bell that she rings to let us know when her glass is empty.
In the days before my dad was shielded from doing the shopping, he would go to the supermarket and when the cashier noticed his trolley — mostly filled with bottles of wine — they would ask: “What are you celebrating?”
And every time he would simply reply:
Their playlists are a bizarre throwback
“Alexa, play Run by Leona Lewis.”
My dad has said these words aloud every evening for the past two weeks.
Like me, he goes through phases of playing the same song over and over. There’s no rhyme or reason to what he will choose, but once he’s settled on a song you can guarantee that the melody and lyrics will be tattooed onto your brain for the foreseeable future.
Will it be Sinead O’Connor this week or Matt Monro? We just don’t know. It would drive some crazy, but I love it.
Aside from that one time, when his song of choice was Hallelujah.
No, not that version. The Leonard Cohen version…
But beyond my dad’s penchant for inane repetition, his playlists have rekindled my love for classics like Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Gabrielle and Phil Collins, alongside my mum’s all time favourites of Dolly Parton, Gene Pitney and Cher.
While, naturally, I’ve taken the opportunity to create playlists of (largely lesser considered) classics like Boyzone, Celine Dion, LeAnne Rimes, M People and Westlife.
Combined into one intergenerational playlist, it’s like a badly dressed wedding DJ called ‘Turnback Tony’ has moved his disco decks into our kitchen.
But when you’re living with your parents, and not in East London, you no longer have to pretend to like cool music.
One memorable evening a few weeks ago we sat in total silence for 17 minutes listening to Bob Dylan’s new song Murder Most Foul.
My dad is a big fan of Bob and has been obsessed with JFK (and his untimely death) for as long as I can remember. So, of course, after it finished my dad responded enthusiastically: ”It’s genius… poetical… riveting!”
While my mum complained about never getting those 17 minutes back.
Then muttered the words:
‘Alexa, play If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher.’
Sadly, my landlord doesn’t allow me to own pets in my small, gardenless, one bedroom flat in central London.
Whereas my parents have three cats and two dogs — so our house is like a domesticated petting zoo.
I firmly believe that when you can’t hug your friends, a dog is the next best thing.
They, for one, are absolutely delighted about lockdown, and it shows.
Unlike society, they don’t care that I’m no longer employed, am still wearing pyjamas at 5pm or have consumed only ice cream and gin & tonic that day.
If I feed them, they will continue to love me.
Much like my parent’s relationship with me, I suppose.
A few weeks ago we ordered a specific takeaway on an app because there was a discount on Tuesdays. Inexplicably since then, there has been no discount on Tuesdays… but ‘Takeaway Tuesday’ has stuck and now remains a firmly ingrained human right in our household.
And let’s not forget that our weekly indulgence of Chicken Tikka Masala and Garlic Naan Bread is keeping the economy going. We all have to do our bit.
They make me laugh
My parents have been married for 49 years. My dad has been winding up my mum since they met in 1969… and she still falls for it every time.
It usually goes something like this: he winks at me and my brother to pay attention, makes a loud snarky comment at my mum about her cooking or something and she snaps at him.
He laughs. We all laugh. Even the dog laughs.
It’s awkward but over the years we have all learned it’s best just to laugh along.
She complains and yells something like, ‘Why do you do this?’
We tell her that she should have seen it coming because it’s been happening everyday for the past five decades.
They are getting older
Last time I was home my dad was telling us a story and my mum suddenly shouted: ‘Get the tape measure out again!’
My dad is a builder, so I thought he was going to start measuring a table leg or oak beam. But instead he pulled the tape measure out to 100 inches and laid it across the table.
He pointed around the 70 mark and said, “This is where I am”.
Then moved his finger along the line slowly back to zero.
“Look at the amount of life I’ve already lived.”
Then he asked all of us to point to our ages on the tape measure and take a long hard look at how much we’d lived and how long we’d likely have left.
It was a traumatic, unexpected and existential moment that came out of nowhere. We looked mortality in the face briefly, together, and then carried on drinking wine as though nothing had happened. I’d highly recommend it.
I’m at an age where I can truly appreciate them
If you are between the ages of 14 and 23 and spending lockdown with your parents, I feel for you. Your social life is peaking, but your summer of awkward experimental freedom has been dipped in hand sanitiser, set on fire and then stuffed into an old VHS case at your parent’s house for three months.
(Ugh. You probably don’t know what VHS is, never mind.)
My point is that at the ripe old age of nearly 29, I have lived enough of my life independently to appreciate a break in the chaotic, turbulent and demanding world of ‘being an adult’.
Moving back home is bliss because my mum insists on filling the dishwasher ‘her way’ and won’t let me anywhere near one of the three washing machines she owns.
Yes, we all know that three is too many washing machines but she has ‘a system’ and who am I to question a woman who has raised four children, travelled the world, survived a deadly cyclone and run two successful businesses?
I just put my clothes in the laundry basket, as she requests, and calmly back away.
Two days later the clothes appear at my bedroom door, clean and folded. Mums really are the best and I will never take it for granted again.
We argue about politics sometimes
Empathy is an important life skill. And when you live in a liberal London bubble it can be hard to put yourself in anyone else’s shoes. Especially if they are old, leaky, worn out hiking boots from the 70s that you’re trying to pass onto your unwilling millennial children.
My parents live in the northern hemisphere of the UK, and the fact is that they — along with most of the British public — do not vote like me or my friends.
And I’m learning to be okay with that.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s actually helpful to regularly surround yourself with people who disagree with you. You can practise patience, empathy and collect mildly disturbing quotes from your dad that you can whatsapp to your friends later and have a laugh about.
My parents have great respect for our current prime minister so I’ve learned to compromise when I’m around them and just make jokes about his hair rather than his policies.
I finally cleared out my childhood bedroom
I’m in the long overdue process of redecorating the tiny cupboard where I spent all the horizontal hours of the first 18 years of my life.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that before this it looked like a hot pink emo unicorn threw up all over the walls and shat out 200 gig ticket stubs.
It only took me a decade, but I have finally got round to repainting the walls more palatable, zen and grown-up colours. (Warm Pewter with a feature wall of Dusted Fondant, if you must know.)
Anyone who’s done this knows that it takes you 6 days longer than you anticipate because of all the nostalgic treacle you have to wade through. Old love notes, diaries, embarrassing photos, that time you regretfully painted an apple and considered it ‘art’.
But if there’s anything you truly regret, it’s the cheap blue tack you stuck all that crap on the walls with. It. Will. Not. Come. Off.
They can’t go shopping
My parents are teetering on the edge of 70 years old and my dad has a heart condition. This means they should not be leaving the parameters of our home and my brother and I are militantly making sure that they don’t.
As a result, we have to do the grocery shopping. And after keeping us fed, watered and clothed between the time of our birth and adolescence, it really is the least we can do.
But most importantly — when they give you their credit card — anything goes.
Of course, being the entitled and eco-concerned ankle-snappers that we are, this just means that we buy healthier food than they would — much to their dismay — as we lecture them about cholesterol and the benefits of turmeric.
All whilst serving their morning coffee with oat milk and swapping bacon sandwiches for avocado on multigrain wraps.
It really is win-win.
So thanks mum and dad, you’ve made lockdown bearable. I’m looking forward to shuffling back into my ‘responsible adult life’ soon, but for now, if you don’t mind, I’ll have another gin & tonic while I cocoon here, ‘write my novel’ and weep about my future earning potential.
“Alexa, play The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan.”