Looking back, I did not know how important bubbles would become in my life. As a child I have no recollection of blowing bubbles. If they existed in the ’50’s as a childhood entertainment, they did not appear in my household. My parents were probably too busy trying to support four children born in the first six years after my father’s arrival in Canada in 1948. He had emigrated from an impoverished family in post-war England where blowing bubbles for entertainment would have been unheard of.
When my own children were growing up we did sometimes have bubbles. It was usually for a special occasion such as a birthday party or a picnic, definitely not a regular pastime. Now I have a four year old granddaughter and bubbles are extremely important. She is endlessly entertained by running around the backyard chasing and popping the bubbles I blow from the back step. I have tried making the solution myself but it just doesn’t seem to work like the store bought kind. I do try to buy it in large bottles and refill the smaller ones that invariably get spilled when she insists on having control of the bottle.
If anyone has walked down a toy or seasonal aisle in a department store or even a large drug store they will find a wide variety of bubble blowing accessories. There are many shapes of bottles and blowing wands in colourful bottles, all containing the same solution. There are bottles in the shape of the popular characters who populate the screens of our children, such as Paw Patrol characters, or Peppa Pig – overpriced, and small volume with ill-fitting lids. And then there are the numerous battery powered bubble “machines,” so one merely has to turn them on and watch a continuous stream of bubbles (at least until the solution or the batteries run out). I even watched a game of “bubble soccer” where the children were encased in large inflated plastic bubbles. Shampoo, bubble bath, dish soap, bar or liquid soap in the bathroom, bubble gum, and carbonated drinks, to name a few were the only bubbles in my life until recently.
Now a “bubble” means something entirely different. A “bubble” defines the small group of people that I can touch, hug, kiss and be close to inside my home or the home of my bubblemates. When my husband and I were able to form a bubble that included our granddaughter and her parents, it felt like an amazing gift. It had been six weeks during which my granddaughter, standing on her front step, could only inform me sadly, “I can’t hug you grandma, because of the corona!”. The bubble now enables us to have the physical contact and expressions of love that we all crave. It sparkles and shines like the bubbles that glisten and float on the breeze in the backyard. It mirrors the excitement of watching those bubbles float up and over the fence or running around to capture as many as possible.
But, this new bubble is also a wall, fragile as it is. It excludes my other two children, one who, due to his work, is in contact with many people so can’t be in my bubble and another who lives far away. This new type of bubble is both a protection and a barrier. I think about many people who can’t have a significant bubble because they are isolated for some reason; geography, health, long term care living, lack of family or close friends.
A “zoom” bubble just doesn’t satisfy in the same way. As a senior, many of my community activities, which give meaning and purpose to life, are either not happening or are via zoom. I’d never heard of zoom prior to the arrival of COVID 19. Now it feels like a life line. It, too, is a sort of bubble. And what about all those older people who are not particularly knowledgeable or skilled with computer and internet use, or don’t even have the access to them? Zoom is not a great substitute for personal contact.
When the pandemic is over, and bubbles return to being a backyard pastime or a nose tickler in a shared glass of something bubbly, we will have acquired a new appreciation for “bubbles” and happy for some of them to have popped. A common word with a new meaning for strange times.