The tension about whether or not the schools should be closed was felt in the schoolyard where parents tried to organize their thoughts together. Classes had already been sent home a few times at our school due to a case of infection, but we had been spared a total closure.
“I think it’s a job for the grandfathers and grandmothers,” said a man who indeed often had his children picked up by his father because he is left alone for some days after his divorce.
I was a bit behind in the spontaneous circle discussion and squeezed in for a moment.
“Not everyone has a grandfather and grandmother,” I said.
A mother who has a daughter in class with Lucie van Roosmalen (6): “She does have a grandmother, I know that.”
There were also other problems.
Sinterklaas was not allowed to enter the school building.
“He just comes to us,” announced the same mother. “Without a mouth cap. And he doesn’t have to test either, because we know him. I’m not going to ask visitors for a QR test. Are they completely drunk?”
A father, clearly averse to everything that has to do with corona rules, I had never seen him with a mouth cap in the few stores we have, said regularly: “Gommers definitely again…”
Diederik Gommers was the man to whom he could express all his displeasure, as if he always put a new pile of dirty laundry in front of the washing machine. Although it also concerned me of course, I still felt that this circle discussion was not intended for me. Why was I so half-hearted about this?
“Well, well, what a misery again,” another mother summed up. “I’m just saying, it’s going to be summer again. It will also pass.”
“And the nursery?” cried one. “Or do we get the bullshit again that you have to be essential. I think everyone is equally essential.”
This widely held view had caused problems during the previous lockdown. Because everyone in our village has an essential profession, or is otherwise indispensable, there were too many children, so that the risk of infection threatened to move from the school to the shelter.
By now I knew that work in the media makes zero impression here, that comes in the fictitious ranking just below seasonal work. The last time I got into that discussion, I was immediately put off by a father who could scream better than me.
“If there’s a tree in the ditch, I can’t get past it with my boat. Someone has to come and get that tree out. I’d rather have that than a newspaper. I think everyone thinks that.”
I wriggled out of the circle with cargo bike and all and said: “Let’s see what the OMT advises…”
No one responded.
Marcel van Roosmalen writes an exchange column with Ellen Deckwitz here.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of November 26, 2021