• Claire Schön

A Zooming Valentine's Birthday

Updated: Apr 14

Change is tough—throw in a pandemic, an unexpected romance and a big, complicated family—it's virtually impossible.


A Zooming Valentine's Birthday

1 FEBRUARY 2021


Hello, my lovely family (let’s at least try to start pleasantly), I set up this WhatsApp group so that we can organise my virtual birthday soiree this year. I need you to all send your email addresses to:


Lily-Rose-Grace-Elisabeth-Anne-Rita-Pemby-Smithe@yahoo.com


by the end of the week, please. If you do not have an email address, please set one up. If you still don’t know what email is, Aunt Grace, give me a call, and I will guide you through.


I will send a Zoom link via email so that you can install it on your laptops.

Love you all lots,


Lil (18:30)


- Bloody soiree—why can’t she talk normal! (18:32)


- What does she mean by virtual—is it happening or not? What’s Zoom? (18:35)


- She means online, Gran. (18:36)


- Then why doesn’t she say online? (18:37)


I am still here, you two – you are not exclusively texting each other! (18:38)


- Just say online, Lil, and stop poncing about. It takes me ages to read this tiny print with my eyes! (18:40)


- Who was poncing about when they named her, eh? That is just a joke. (18:45)


- Me and Bill had a fight about her name and ended up with all the grandparents and our sisters—no-one asked her to go and get a double-barrelled married name, though. She could have changed it back after the divorce. (18:48)


- You could have left Rita off. (18:49)


- Oi, what's wrong with my name? (18:50)


- Nothing, Aunt Rita, sorry didn’t realise you were invited to Lil’s birthday this year – you never usually come. (18:52)


- I’m not coming this year either—I’ll be sitting in the comfort of my own home, just how I like it, listening to you lot rattle on for as long as I can stand it. (18:55)


- Charming! (18:56)


- Anyway, why didn’t you spread the names out across all of the kids? (18:58)


- We only planned on one (19:00)


- Well, that was a lot of mistakes then, eh!!! (19:01)


- Who are you calling a mistake? (19:02)


- Why did she put all her names in her email address, though? (19:05)


She? I am still here. You can ask me directly. No-one else had that combination. (19:06)


- Really, funny that! (19:08)


Enough now, everyone. Let’s save the fights and insults for Zoom on the day.

(19:09)


- Lil, why has Dave left the group? (19:10)


- Wouldn’t you if you were Dave? (19:11)


Right, that’s it, I’m deleting the group. Get your email addresses to me - otherwise, nobody gets a present from me for their birthday this year! (19:12)


- Will they be virtual or real? (19:13)


GROUP DELETED


14 FEBRUARY 2021


‘That’s a lovely sweater, love. Did you knit it? Ooh, tell John to get some clothes on. I just got a flash of his meat and two veg—put me right off my dinner!’


Val, you didn’t tell me you were on that thing already!’


‘It’s alright, John, it was only Mum, she saw it all last year when you drank too much bubbly and got the beds mixed up.’


‘It’s not just your mother—I am here too.’


‘And me.’


‘And me.’


‘Okay, it was nearly the whole family, John.’


‘Is everyone here, Lil?’


‘Think so.’


‘Lil, we seem to have an extra person, though—Jason?’


‘G’day, everyone.’


‘Who the bleeding hell is Jason? He’s seen my bits as well!’


‘No-one cares about your bits, John! Jason is with me.’


‘No, he’s not, Lil, you’re on your own screen.’


‘I mean he’s my guest.’


‘Why would anyone want to join in if they don’t have to – he must be mental.’


‘Don’t be cheeky, Darren, we’ve got company.’


‘Nah, don’t worry mate—I’m sweet as.’


‘He’s Australian!’


‘Bullet! We got that at G’day!’


‘Why is he your guest, Lil? Where’s Dave?’


‘Jason, love, it’s been a pleasure, but would you mind leaving us for a bit to talk to Lil?’


‘No worries, knock yourself out – I could eat the arse out of a low-flying duck; gonna grab myself a bite to eat – catch up with you later. Have a blinder, everyone!’


‘Wow, he seems cool, Aunt Lil, and very fit.’


‘Yes, but Lil is in a relationship with Dave. They live together.’


‘We’ve separated. He drove me mad during lockdown, so I chucked him out.’


‘Everyone has driven everyone mad during lockdown—we are all in the same boat.’


‘Look, Dave’s gone, and now I’m with Jason. And, as my birthday is on Valentine’s Day, I decided to invite him along.’


‘And how does that work with him being on the other side of the world and no-one allowed to travel for the foreseeable future?’


‘Perfectly—you see, some Australians have ventured outside of Australia; he lives here.’


‘He’ll be boomeranging back in no time!’


‘Darren, I told you not to be cheeky!’


‘Where here?’


‘Is Dad around, Mum?’


‘You’re not going to give him a heart attack again are you, Lil? Not like the time you brought that American home from holiday?’


‘If you break it to him it will be better, Mum, easier.’


‘Oh, no!’


Jason, you can come in the living room now!’


‘He lives with you!’


‘G’day again, family!’


‘They don’t know that you’re family yet, babe.’


‘We do now! How did you manage that during a pandemic?’


‘We were allowed, just the two of us.’


‘Urgh, Mum, they’re snogging!’


‘Who’s snogging?’


‘No one, Bill, just you keep your eyes on the telly.’


‘I’ll let you get back to Dad, Mum. Well, I think that has put an end to my birthday get-together. Everyone off. Jason and I are on honeymoon.’


ZOOM CALL ENDED


# # #


By Claire Schön

Twitter: @SchonClaire


Originally from the UK, Claire now lives and works in Austria. She studied German and Spanish and is now fluent in the former but useless in the latter. When she’s not running around with, and after, her two young children, Claire carves out small pieces of time to write short stories. She has been published in the Pure Slush, Birth anthology (2021) and longlisted for Grindstone Literary Flash (2020), Cranked Anvil Flash and Flash500.

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