Why I'm Reading Kids' Books and Making Lego in Lockdown
Published on: 03 June 2020
In uncertain times, returning to the books and games you loved as a child can be very comforting. The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley author Amber Lee Dodd writes about the power of nostalgia in soothing a troubled mind.
A little over a month ago, I was planning to move to Scotland and excitedly waiting for my new book to come out. I was bubbling away on a high, waiting to step into the next phase of my life. One that felt long overdue and hard earned. And then, the world took a turn.
The schools shut, we went on lockdown, the death toll started to rise. I watched anxiously as my high-risk mum developed a cold. Struggled with my book events being cancelled and my freelance work drying up. I waited to adjust, or let it all sink in. But just as I seemed to, we got a call. The routine blood test my Dad had taken had turned up something alarming. He was fast tracked for cancer tests. I felt like I’d gotten off a roller coaster, but I couldn’t find my feet. The world was spinning, and I wasn’t sure where the ground was anymore.
I couldn’t turn to old friends like I usually did. Because everyone felt the same.
My grief was no different, or more important that anyone else’s. In fact, I was far more aware of the privilege I had. I had friends gowning up to go onto NHS wards, others having to cancel weddings. Some heading out onto the front line as essential workers on minimum wage. I told myself to get it together. I’d work through it. In fact, I’d do better. I’d take up running again, I’d learn to play the mandolin or speak Spanish. I’d come out of it all with six-pack abs and a sexy new accent.
But two weeks into lockdown I hadn’t changed out of pyjamas, and gin and cheese had become my primary food groups. I spent my nights refreshing the news, scrolling through. Looking for certainty. Looking for answers. Looking for something to make sense of everything. Some hidden piece of data that could help me predict the future. Help me build my foundations on again. But there was nothing. Just endless death counts, panic and other frightened voices. At some point I shut off twitter, muted my news alerts and went to the library app borrow box and downloaded the Harry Potter audiobook. I listened to Stephen Fry’s voice read the words I’d read aged ten. It was like throwing a warm comfortable blanket over myself. After days of tossing and turning I finally fell asleep.
The next day, in between waiting on news of my family, I played Pokémon. For a glorious hour I completely lost myself. When the evening brought more scary news - another trip to the hospital for my parents - I wasn’t prepared, but I felt stronger and clearer headed to deal with it.
Every day I have started to find moments to fill with my favourite childhood things. This week I’ve played Animal Crossing, ordered Lego and even started running again. My playlist is filled with Britney Spears, Spice Girls, Macy Gray, Sugababes. All the classics. I’ve made it my routine now. To fill every day with something that brings me nostalgic joy.
Other people are doing the same. Friends and acquaintances are making family puzzles for the first time, old Gameboys are being dug out of the attic, children’s books are being read by more adults in my life than ever. There’s a powerful reason why. They provide comfort and routine and order. They transport us back to who we once were. Because in the middle of all this, we all feel like children. We wake to a world filled with uncertainty. Where our rules and routines are constantly being remade. To be able to return, even briefly, to a place of comfort and familiarity feels precious.
Today I made Lego and read Harry Potter, so tomorrow I can be brave.
Amber Lee Dodd's latest novel, The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley, is our Bookmark Book of the Month for June and is reviewed below.
Bookmark Book of the Month - June
Author: Amber Lee Dodd
Noah Bradley has moved home too many times to count, but this time he actually likes his new school and he wants to stay. What he doesn't want is the 'uncool' neighbour he's been seen with to ruin his newfound popularity, or the bad omens, freak weather events, and the deadly family curse that's followed him from town to town...