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Who would have thought that reunions would be quite so joyous?
A few months ago you’d be forgiven for thinking we all hated one another’s guts.
In June, before the Victorian lockdown, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews sledged South Australia, asking: “I don’t want to be offensive to South Australians but why would you want to go there?”
In Byron Bay one local, disgusted at the yuppie Melburnians that had migrated north before lockdown, told reporters: “You can spot the Melburnians in a second … They just reek of Melbourne. Puffer jackets and ironed jeans. I mean, what’s with that?”
Jokes were made on social media about Sicktoria and Melcatraz, and in retaliation Victorians declared they were going to boycott Queensland, spending their tourist dollars locally once the borders reopened.
Western Australia didn’t want anything to do with any other state – and the response from the rest of Australia was largely indifference.
But after a bitter and divided winter, we’ve put down our weapons. By this week almost all internal borders have fallen, and airports across the land have been transformed from gloomy wastelands to the final scene of Love, Actually.
In turns out, despite all the sledging (puffer jackets – ouch), we love each other, actually.
This week, the hum already in the air this time of year (Christmas parties, Advent, school breaking up, summer holidays on the horizon) is louder, more intense, and more emotional than usual. As a country, we are reuniting. And the feeling is one of relief and joy.
There’s a genuine excitement, rather than obligation, in attending Christmas parties with colleagues that you haven’t seen since the office quickly shuttered in March. There’s the thrill of meeting new members of your family born during lockdown. There’s a year’s worth of celebration we’re trying to pack into a few weeks in December.
For so long we’ve been operating in fear and uncertainty. Will the borders open? Which borders and when? If they open, will they stay open – or will they be snapped back shut as quickly as they did in winter? Will it be safe to travel? Will the airlines be operating? Will we need permits? What if there’s another outbreak?
There’s been pain as well as uncertainty. People have missed last moments with dying loved ones, funerals, the birth of children, huge milestones, annual get-togethers, tending to sick friends and relatives, and nurturing long distance love affairs.
Reuniting is made intensely sweeter by months of enforced separation. And it’s sweeter still for those who have endured the longest lockdowns.
Novelist David Foster Wallace, who wrote a lot about boredom, promised that on the other side of extreme tedium was bliss.
“Bliss – a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious – lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom,” he wrote.
So it is here.
Recently I reunited with school friends from Warrnambool down at a beach house in Port Fairy. Could Victorians from 10 different households gather in an Airbnb? Each week, as the last weekend in November approached, the answer was no. My friends watched the Andrews press conferences avidly, waiting for restrictions to ease. This was the weekend so many of us were hanging out for – the light at the end of 2020’s rat-infested tunnel.
And just in time for our reunion – the restrictions lifted.
On the Saturday night, you could tell those that had been in lockdown longest. Those from the Melbourne postcodes that locked down first – and longest – were dancing on tables, partying all night, singing U2 at the top of their lungs at 3am. They were the last to go to bed. They were the most joy-filled (and also the most piss-fit, which is, I guess, what a long lockdown can do for you).
The friends that endured long stage 3 lockdowns mixed cocktails, flung themselves into the Southern Ocean at midnight and made passable TikTok videos, while the interstate guests, who missed the second lockdown and its resultant suffering altogether, slunk off to bed at 10pm, exhausted.
Exhilaration follows deprivation. It’s going to be a great summer.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: After a bitter, locked down winter, reunions across Australia have been joyous | Coronavirus