MY daughter is obsessed with bubbles, we blow bubbles in the garden every day. She whispers the word under her breath when they appear, hushed tones as though to reflect the magnitude of the magic of them.

They are magic, I begin to realise, or if not magic, then certainly extraordinary. What are bubbles? My breath, pushed into liquid, which is suspended in air, blown by the wind, carried away until it meets a surface or object which punctures the svelte liquid casing. Bubbles are a visual illustration of the way our atmosphere works, they show us liquid, air, gravity. These are the scientific elements that they depict. But in their petroleum-sheened, spherical perfection, they also offer a lens through which to view the world, a rainbow-esque diffraction through which whatever is on the other side of them is visible, yet transformed.

As we blow bubbles every day I think about how extraordinary they are, how light and free. How simple, yet complex. I too begin to whisper “bubbles” with reverence as they float and glide upwards from our small square patch of garden, exceeding our boundaries and beginning to roam up and beyond towards the sky.

I have cylindrical shapes bulging from every jacket pocket, a stash of bubbles for every occasion, wherever we might go. On our second week of lockdown in the park I am blowing them for our daughter to chase when my husband says, “maybe this isn’t a good idea”. I realise he means in light of coronavirus.

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Bubbles, so harmless and childlike and fun, all of a sudden become beautiful bombs of my toxic breath, my germs encapsulated in a perfect sphere, drifting in the air ready to pop and spray my trapped breath all over an innocent bystander. Instantly horrified, I stop. This is what it is doing, it is changing everything. Not changing the activity or the action itself but shifting the meaning of the thing to something darker, more dangerous and deadly. I hate it for this, for ruining these things.

The death toll rises. The government announces that social distancing could go on for some time and the lockdown is confirmed for another three weeks. All of the milestone dates pass, pangs of what could have been but also, perhaps, a sense of relief.

The stag weekend in Lisbon my husband should have been on, my weekend in Copenhagen with my girlfriends. I would have been flying out a day later than everyone else then leaving a day early to accommodate work commitments, but I would still have been there.

The relief as the days and weeks begin to fly by is also the acknowledgement that I had overbooked myself in these months, I had over-committed to work, external examining trips, research projects and social events and occasions. It was looking almost impossible to do everything, and it was.

The National: Laura Bissell pictured with her daughter in Kelvingrove park, Glasgow. Laura has just written a book titled Bubbles: Reflections on Becoming a Mother...Photograph by Colin Mearns.3 Dec 2021.See interview by Maxine McArthur.

One thing I want to remember after this is over is the way in which this simpler life, this move away from my usual kind of busy, has exposed the myth of constant busyness as success. What is success? Being so tired and stressed from career building that the weekends are about recovery and bracing for another week? That the constant work commitments mean that I see my daughter for a few hours a day and perform perfunctory tasks, clothes on, teeth brushed, breakfast, dinner, nappy change, bath, bedtime. Where is our time to know each other? Where is our time to be friends? Where is our time to explore together to find things out, to notice things?

Bubbles, I think. Where is the time for bubbles?

My daughter becomes obsessed with the car. She points to it outside the window, “vroom, vroom”. When outside, she pulls me towards it. “VROOM VROOM”. I realise she wants to go in the car. I strap her in and she sits happily in her car seat, playing with a toy phone with the car door open while I potter about in the garden. In the days that follow her obsession deepens. She wants the car to move. My husband starts driving her around the block. Every time we go outside, she wants to go in the car. He starts parking the car down the street so that it is not visible from our front room window to try to stop her seeing it and wanting to go in the car.

My husband suggests that maybe this is her trying to tell us that she wants to go somewhere or do something different. The week that she becomes fixated with the car is the seventh week of lockdown. At the start of the week she is wild, we realise that perhaps she too is starting to get fed up with only seeing us. Her world has become smaller again, more like in the beginning, when it was the three of us. Before grandparent days of childcare, or nursery, it was us, and this is where we are again. Does this feel like a regression for her? How will this affect her? Will it disrupt her socialisation with other babies and toddlers?

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I try not to worry about it too much, instead trying to make sure she has the best time she can with us. We read, do crafts, bake, plant seeds, go for walks down our street where she roars “HIYA” at every person we meet. She becomes like a celebrity on our road, waving energetically to her public – the families sitting out in their gardens in the warm weather.

The summery weather continues, we water the plants together, go to the park at the weekends, barbecue most Saturdays. It is a simple, ideal kind of life. A neighbour says she is enjoying it, then she says, “that is disgusting to say, isn’t it, when so many people are dying”.

When Covid-19 first struck, every aspect of life was turned upside down. In her new book, Bubbles: Reflections on Becoming Mother, Laura Bissell focuses closely on one particularly affected aspect – motherhood.

Laura Bissell is a writer, educator, performance researcher and mother. She has had her poetry, creative writing and academic writing published in journals and anthologies. Laura is co-author of Making Routes: Journeys in Performance 2010-2020 and co-editor of Performance in a Pandemic. Laura lives in Glasgow with her husband, daughter and two cats