– Effie’s Making Rainbows –

“Let’s make rainbows today,” my mother suggested. My brother and I were sat staring at our bowls of soggy cereal. “You two look like you need cheering up!”

My big brother shifted his stare to his orange juice, then grunted.

“It’s Friday. I have art Friday mornings,” I said, thinking about how much fun it would be to sit next to Ruby and Zara, painting pictures and cutting paper shapes. “I miss art. I miss school.”

“Then let’s have our own art lesson here,” answered my mother, her voice sounding excited and encouraging. “What do you say, James?”

“I don’t like art. I like P.E.,” James clarified to our mother, focusing back on his cereal bowl again. “And I definitely don’t want to make rainbows, whatever that means.”

My mother drew in a big breath, held it for a count of five, then let the air pass slowly out of her mouth.

Our school has been closed for a month. Since then, I have noticed that my mother holds her breath a lot when James says he doesn’t want to do something. It’s not easy being home all the time—it’s not very fun for me and James because we miss our friends. Some days I think James is extra grumpy. I don’t think my mother likes it when James is grumpy.

My mother loves us very much but I know it also cannot be easy for her to now work from home and try to home-school us. ESPECIALLY when my brother does not want to make rainbows.

“James,” my mother explained, “you still have to learn even if you’re not at school and art can be fun. Give it a try!”

My mother and I both looked at James and waited for what seemed like a very long time for his answer. His mouth scrunched up a lot and his blue eyes got all squinty. I knew that look. He was definitely deciding what was the best thing to do: go along with our mother’s suggestion or dig his heels in. I didn’t think James wanted to see my mother count to five with her mouth full of air again.

“Okay,” he mumbled. “I’ll try it. But I’m not making rainbows!”

Sometimes it feels like my mother and my brother are having a battle to see who wins. That first round was won by my mother. James was going to do art.

“Why are we making rainbows anyway?” I asked my mother. “Can we paint puppies or flowers or trees or spaghetti instead? I love all of those things!”

“I’ll explain the rainbows. Effie, go get your paints and put on your apron. James, you’ll need to wear an old t-shirt. I’ll get some paper plates and I’ll cover the table. Meet you back here in two minutes.”

“Paper plates!” James and I shouted out at the same time.

“Paper plates! Now, hurry so we can get started.”

James and I carried our breakfast bowls and glasses into the kitchen sink then hurried off to our bedrooms.

Art is my favourite thing to do, other than playing with my friends. So I was feeling happier than when I woke up that morning and saw the rain and grey sky outside my window. I pulled on my purple apron that hangs on my desk chair and I stuffed paints and brushes into its deep pockets.

We met back in the dining room minutes later. My mother had covered the wooden table-top with the blue plastic sheet we use for messy projects. She had filled two glasses with water to clean our brushes and had placed a white, paper plate in front of three chairs at the table. Between the plates were enormous piles of colourful markers, pencils and crayons.

“Yay! My favourite lesson of the day!” I shouted, adding my pocketed tubes of paint and brushes to the collection of supplies.

“What do you think, James?” Asked my mother.

“It looks…interesting.”

Since my brother recently turned ten he uses the word interesting a lot. It seems to mean many things to James, but mostly he says interesting when my mother suggests something new to do or she cooks something he’s not eaten before. Maybe James thinks the best thing to say to something new is interesting. I think it’s interesting that James does that!

“Great,” our mother replied, smiling and motioning to us to sit down. “And after we finish art, we can go in the garden and I’ll teach a P.E. lesson. Sound good, James?”

“Sounds…interesting.” This time, I agreed with James. The idea of my mother teaching P.E. definitely sounded interesting.

Our lesson began with my mother’s instructions: “While you have had to stay home and not go to school the past few weeks, many grown-ups have also had to stay home and look after their families. They have had to work from home—”

“Like you,” I said.

“Yes, Effie. Like me. But lots of other grown-ups have kept working because their jobs are essential to everyone.”

“What’s essential mean?” I asked.

“It means their jobs are very important right now to help us. Like nurses and doctors, people who sell us groceries and—”

“Football players are essential,” interrupted my brother.

“I’m sure they are essential to you because you love football, sweetheart, but essential workers are people who have jobs we cannot do without.”

“But—” James interrupted again.

My mother held up her hand in her gesture that means stop right there and don’t answer back. Then she said: “I know what you are going to say, lovely. That athletes are essential workers. I know athletes are important to you and to many people who love sports. But I’m talking about the grown-ups who go to work every day to make poorly people feel better and keep us safe and make sure we have food to eat.”

“Like your cereal, James. You have to have your cereal every morning or you’re grumpy,” I added.

James sat quietly, looking at me and my mother. Again I wondered if inside his head he was wondering if it was better to continue stating his point or simply accept that the people he thought were essential were maybe not THE MOST essential to us right now.

Or maybe James was thinking that he wanted to tell my mother to stop calling him sweetheart and lovely, as she does that a lot. A lot, a lot. But I kind of like her calling us those names. She does it because she loves us.

“I got it. Football players are not essential,” James murmured. Round two won by my mother. “But I’m still not going to paint rainbows.”

My mother continued: “One way that people are showing their support and gratitude to essential workers is by painting rainbows then putting their pictures up in their windows.”

“Like an art gallery?” I asked.

“Kind of,” my mother answered. “Just think how lovely it must be for essential workers walking or driving past homes that are showing their support. All those beautiful rainbows in windows must make them feel very happy!”

“Can I just write thank you on a paper plate?” Asked James.

“I guess you could, sweetheart.” From the corner of my eye I saw James wince. He thinks he’s too big now to be called anything other than James. Sometimes I also hear his friends call him mate. My mother would never call him mate.

“Why don’t you make a football?” I suggested. “The plate’s round anyway and then you can make a picture of something you like. You definitely don’t like rainbows.”

“That’s a great idea, Effie!” My mother agreed. “Why not make a football using rainbow colours? That would really stand out in our window.”

I wasn’t expecting my brother to make anything that morning but my football idea seemed to change his mind. James picked up a fistful of coloured markers and began colouring football designs.

I decided to paint a big rainbow. And a heart.

My mother also decorated a plate. She drew a rainbow with markers and underneath drew a picture of our family.

We all wrote Thank you! on our plates.

“Ooh!” My mother said, looking at our creations. “What a beautiful rainbow, Effie!”

It really was one of my favourite rainbow drawings ever! Red and orange, yellow and green, blue and purple…plus a giant red heart!

“And I love those shapes on your football, James. Do you know what those shapes are called?”

“Football shapes,” James replied. I don’t think he was really trying to give a correct answer because football shapes is not really a thing.

Interesting,” I said to him, smiling at my mother. James did not smile. Instead, James said to me that my rainbow was not interesting at all. I stuck my tongue out at him. He stuck his tongue back out at me.

“Alright, kids!” My mother said firmly. “This is meant to be fun! Be kind to each other. That’s what this lesson is all about. We are making these to show kindness and care to other people. So be kind and caring towards each other. Got it?”

James and I nodded.

“I really do love your football design, James,” added my mother. “Those shapes on the ball have six sides so they are called—”

“Hexagons,” answered James.

“You see—now we’re having a maths lesson!” My mother smiled and looked very happy that James and I were learning something while we were not at school. My teacher, Miss Wolf, has been sending me homework to do at home while we’re not in school and I have missed seeing Miss Wolf because she is the best teacher in the world. But today I decided my mother would be an AMAZING teacher!

“Ready to put them on show?” We nodded and each of us carried our decorated plates to the front window of our house. My mother flipped them over so the pictures faced the outside, then stuck the plates to the glass with Selotape.

The three of us stood there for a minute quietly, staring out of the window at the rainy morning.

“I don’t see anyone walking by!” I said, feeling a bit upset that no one was looking at our rainbows.

“Remember, sweetheart, that most families are staying indoors and only going out once a day for exercise. A lot of the essential workers will be working right now. But people will see our Thank you! art. When it stops raining, I’m sure we’ll see our neighbours walk by. Mrs. Wilson will walk by with her dog, because Rex needs to walk outside every day. She’ll love our rainbows.”

“And maybe we can tell our friends about our pictures,” I suggested. “Then they can stop by our house when they go out walking with their families.”

“Absolutely!” Agreed my mother.

“Can we send them messages now? I want to tell Ruby and Zara about my rainbow picture.”

“Yes, lovely. We can let Ruby and Zara know. And we can also let your friends know, James. I’m sure they’ll also think it’s—”

Interesting,” replied James.

“Right. Interesting. We can let all your friends know about rainbows. Maybe they’ve already made their own rainbows. Now, let’s clean these brushes and tidy the table then we’ll get ready for our P.E. lesson.”

I glanced at James. His face looked like he was trying to figure out what was the best answer to give my mother again: either go along with her P.E. lesson or try to talk her out of it.

“You know what? P.E. sounds great but it’s raining outside. P.E. in the rain isn’t very fun,” James answered. I think James had come up with a third answer: use the rain an excuse not to have his mother become his new P.E. teacher. “Maybe we should just go for a walk.”

I was worried that my mother would be upset by James not wanting her to teach us but my mother’s face looked happy.

“Great idea, James! Let’s put our coats on and go look at rainbows!”

James says he does not miss school but I think that morning, he would have wanted to be at school in his P.E. lesson with his friends. I don’t think James wanted to walk around in the rain, looking at rainbows. But we are a family and my mother said it was important that families stick together and be kind to each other and to other people, especially essential workers.

So we went out in the rain and looked at people’s windows.

We saw giant rainbows painted on cardboard and small rainbows coloured with crayons. Some people had taped multi-coloured letters to their windows that spelled out: T-H-A-N-K-Y-O-U-!

We even walked by one house where someone had knitted a rainbow and hung it on their door!

After a long walk, the three of us returned home and saw two familiar people standing across the road from our house. It was one of my best-friends, Zara, with her mother!

“I love your rainbow, Effie!” Shouted Zara.

I waved with both my hands. “Thank you!”

“I’m going to go home now and make rainbows, too!” Zara said, then I watched her turn and walk away with her mother. I felt sad because Zara and I can’t play together every day like we usually do. My mother says we will play together again soon but we now need to follow the rules so we stay healthy. 

“Shall we walk by Zara’s house tomorrow and see her rainbows?” My mother suggested.

“Yes! Yes, yes, yes!” I answered.

“And maybe the sun will be out tomorrow, James. Then we can have P.E. in the garden. We can run around with your new football, the one you got for your birthday.”

“Maybe…,” my brother answered. “Yeah, I guess that would be fun.”

My mother smiled and my brother smiled back. Round three to both of them.

My brother and my mother love each other. I know that. And even if they sometimes seem to have little battles, everything always works out okay.

The sounds of raindrops were growing louder under my mother’s huge umbrella. Fat blobs of water fell from the sky and I was hungry for lunch.

“Let’s go inside,” my mother suggested. We began walking towards our front door when a voice shouted over to us from across the road.

“Thank you!” 

The three of us turned around to see a man hunched in the rain. It was our postman, Mr. Jones, standing opposite from our house. He was wearing a blue cap and a red raincoat, with a large sack slung over his shoulder.

“Thank you for your rainbow pictures. They really cheered me up today!”

“You’re welcome,” my mother replied. “We are grateful for all your hard work!”

“Are you essential?” I shouted over to the man.

“I guess so,” he answered. “People still need to receive their post! And I’ve just put lots of letters through your door!”

“Oh, thank you!” I said, hoping that there was a card waiting for me from my grandparents because I had not been able to visit them for a month.

The man smiled and tipped his hat at us. “At your service, Miss Effie!” We all laughed. “Have a good day,” he said, then continued along our road in the rain, pushing letters from his heavy sack through the slots in our neighbours’ doors.

“Hot chocolates?” My mother really knew how to cheer up our days!

“Yes!” James and I said. “Yes, yes, yes!”

And that’s how I coloured my world today. 

I coloured my world in colours of the rainbow.

How did you colour your world?

Effie x

– Effie’s Easter –

Hi, I’m Effie. How was your Easter? Here is my story…

Usually I spend Easter meeting my friends in the park. We hunt together for eggs that our parents have hidden behind the slide, under the park benches and at the bottom of trees. They’re not real eggs! They’re plastic and you break them open to find lots of little, hidden chocolate eggs. It’s really fun…and delicious!

But this year, we are stuck inside!

This year, my brother says we WON’T be going to the park.

And we WON’T be finding yummy, chocolate Easter eggs.

Even worse, we WON’T be seeing our friends!

I have two best-friends: Ruby and Zara. They are the most fun ever! But school has been closed for weeks now and we can’t play together. They can’t even come to my house because families are supposed to stay at their own homes for a little while. I never thought I’d say this but I cannot WAIT to go back to school!

I tell my mother this every day.

‘I really just want to go back to school. Pleeeeeaaase!’

She shakes her head and laughs.

My mother set up her office at home now so she can look after me and my brother, James. When I tell her that I am bored or that I miss my friends or that I want to go back to school, she tells me that there are lots of fun things to do at home and to enjoy a bit of time off school.

‘But I still have to do homework!’ I remind her…loudly.

‘Oh, Effie! You’ll soon be back with your friends. Now is a time to be creative. Find creative ways to play with your friends. And you can always play with your bro—’

‘Don’t say play with my brother!’

My brother is two years older than me. I don’t think he wants to play with me either. The sign on his bedroom door says: ‘Keep out!’ So I keep out.

A couple of days ago, my mother said: ‘It’s Easter tomorrow.’ Her face kept looking at her computer and her fingers tapped on the keyboard so quickly I thought she must be typing made-up words. ‘You love to paint. Get your brushes out and we’ll decorate some eggs.’

‘But I want to go to the park tomorrow and hunt for eggs filled with chocolate!’

‘I’m afraid there’s no hunt in the park this year, sweetheart. We can make our own hunt in the house.’ She was now smiling at me but I did not smile back. I wanted to run around the field, swing on swings and log-roll down hills with Ruby and Zara.

‘It’s not the same,’ I answered, then walked back to my bedroom to find my brushes.

After lunch, my mother carried a big bowl of boiled eggs to the table. She had dyed them the colours of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink.

‘I DON’T want the pink ones!’ James said and swiped all the blue eggs for himself. Blue is his favourite colour. His eyes are blue. His favourite football team wears blue tops. James always chooses blue trainers when his feet grow out of his old ones.

I have blue eyes, too, but yellow is my favourite colour. Yellow makes me happy!

Green is my mother’s favourite colour. You can tell because she grows plants on every bookshelf and window sill we have. There are even plant pots hanging in our bathroom!

Painting eggs is actually one of my favourite things to do at Easter. I love any time I can use my paintbrushes and paints.

‘This is fun!’ I said to my mother. I was holding an egg in my left hand and painting a tiger face on it with the brush in my right fist. Then I remembered that there will be no Easter egg hunt the next day. ‘But it’s not as fun as seeing everyone tomorrow. I want to go to the hunt!’

‘The hunt’s a tradition,’ James added. ‘We have to go.’

I thought I knew what a tradition is but decided it was best to ask: ‘Is a tradition something special you do a lot so it becomes…even more special?’

My brother gave a more simple answer: ‘A tradition is a tradition, Effie.’

I was a bit confused but James sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

‘Yeah,’ I said to my mother. ‘A tradition is a tradition.’

My mother looked at us both and smiled. ‘I know you want to see your friends tomorrow. I know you want to go the park and that you miss playing outside and you miss school—’

‘Correction—’ James interrupted. ‘Effie misses school. I’d rather stay home.’

‘But don’t you miss your friends?’ I asked him. ‘Don’t you miss Ollie and Fitz?’

My brother answered straight back: ‘That’s why the Easter Bunny invented the phone…and the computer…and the…’

I swung my head quickly to my mother. ‘Did the Easter Bunny invent the phone?’

Everything then went quiet. I watched my mother and my brother stare at each other then they started laughing. Laughing a lot! I didn’t get the joke but eventually I joined in. It was more fun laughing than being upset about not seeing my friends.

That night, my mother came to my bedroom to tuck me in, to make sure I had brushed my teeth and to turn out the light.

‘Don’t forget to—’

‘I know, lovely. I’ll turn on the little lamp.’

The room was dark but a warm glow from my desk light meant I could see my shelf of books, my paints and brushes on my desk, and my ginormous herd of stuffed animals. That made me feel happy. I snuggled under my softest blanket.

My mother laid down beside me and we stared up at my ceiling of small, glowing stars.

‘I wonder what Papa and Grandma are doing tonight.’

‘They’ll be home together, thinking of all of us.’

‘I’ll miss them tomorrow. They always come over for Easter dinner.’

‘And they’ll miss us. But holidays are special times when we think about people we love if we can’t be with them. Soon we’ll all be together and they’ll visit again.’

I looked across my bedroom to my desk, where two of my favourite eggs I painted lay in a small bowl.

‘I’m going to give those eggs to Papa and Grandma next time I see them.’

‘They’re beautiful, Effie.’

Then I fell asleep and dreamt about the Easter Bunny speaking to Santa Claus on his mobile phone.

The next morning, bright beams of sunshine woke me up. Yellow light filled my bedroom and I felt excited about Easter!

Delicious smells drifted into my room and I remembered today was a holiday which meant a special breakfast was in the making.

‘Happy Easter!’ I shouted from my bed, loud enough to wake my brother in his bedroom and hopefully reach my mother.

‘Happy Easter, Effie!’ My mother answered back. I pictured her standing in the kitchen, making pancakes and humming. She loves to hum in the kitchen. 

James grunted. Loudly. Then another grunt came from the other side of my bedroom wall. I didn’t think that James woke up to lots of sunshine in his room.

‘Breakfast is ready!’ My mother announced from somewhere in the house. ‘Come to the table…and wear shoes not slippers!’

‘I don’t wear slippers,’ my brother hollered back.

I could hear my mother outside James’ door. ‘No need to shout, lovely. Just be at the table in two minutes. And don’t wear socks.’

This all sounded exciting. Don’t wear socks!

I pulled on my favourite red trainers. The ones that help me climb trees faster and run faster than anyone in my class. James arrived at the table wearing his blue ones. Always blue.

We devoured a huge breakfast of pancakes with syrup and strawberries and orange juice. Tall green vases full of daffodils, picked from our garden, decorated the table. The day already felt warm and sunny. A perfect day for the park.

‘Please can we just go out and meet—’

‘No, sweetheart. The three of us can go for a short walk but no meeting friends. We are lucky to have a garden and we have each other.’ My mother walked into the kitchen then returned with two large Easter baskets filled with jelly beans and tiny chocolate eggs wrapped in neon-coloured foil of many colours. In the centre of each basket was wedged a large, chocolate egg—one for me and one for James.

Squeals of ‘oohs’ and ‘thanks’ echoed with delight at our table. I gave my mother an Easter card I had secretly made for her. I knew she would love it because it was a picture of her garden with green paint everywhere. There were lots of birds flying in a blue sky. And a giant, yellow sun hung above rows of flowers.

‘Where are the eggs? Where’s the bunny?’ Asked my brother, who had no card for our mother.

‘It’s an Easter card about spring. This is what spring looks like,’ I said, frowning at James. ‘It does look like spring, doesn’t it?’

‘It’s beautiful, Effie. I love it!’ My mother gave me a big hug and kissed the top of my head. She leaned in to give James a kiss but he pulled away. This is a new thing for James. He thinks he’s grown up all of a sudden because he’s turned ten. I think he looks the same as he did when he was nine.

‘Yuck! No way!’

‘It’s a tradition…I thought you loved traditions!’ My mother began to laugh. Then I got her joke and I laughed, too.

‘That’s what you said last night,’ I reminded my brother. 

‘I said I wanted to go to the Easter hunt and meet my friends. THAT is a tradition I like. Not kisses from my mother.’

‘Handshake?’ She smiled at James and he began to slowly mirror her grin.

He held his hand up in the air and they high-fived. It felt like a compromise.

‘Okay, get ready! James, go get your phone and Effie, get your tablet, then meet back here in one minute.’

Soon afterwards, my mother’s phone and my tablet each began to ring. Then James’ phone started ringing. Then my mother’s laptop on the table also started to twinkle with the sound of an incoming video call.

Magically, all at the same time, my friends’ faces appeared on each screen: Ruby on my tablet and Zara on my mother’s laptop. Then James’ best friends joined the party: Ollie on my mother’s phone and Fitz on my brother’s phone.

‘Okay, kids…everyone here?’

We all shouted ‘yes’ together.

She continued: ‘Your parents and I wanted to give you an Easter treat. We know you are missing each other and want to meet today. Since that’s not possible, we’re going to have an online Easter Egg hunt!’

We all shouted ‘yay’ together.

‘While you were sleeping, we hid plastic eggs around each of our houses. You have ten minutes to run around and find them. Then we’ll meet you back here at our table. Well, obviously you won’t actually be here but…I’m sure you get it. Now get ready…five…four…three…two…one…go!’

And off we ran, snatching cushions off sofas, opening cupboards, pulling back the shower curtain. I scooped up eggs then shoved them into my pockets. I even pushed them up my sleeves and stuffed them in my socks!

James ran into the back garden and was looking under a gnome when my mother shouted: ‘Five more minutes.’

It was the most fun I had had in weeks, racing around, trying to beat my brother to the eggs. I could hear Ruby and Zara laughing and shouting from the other side of electronic screens when I ran through our dining room.

Then my mother shouted, ‘STOP!’ And we ran back to the table with arms full of coloured eggs.

I sat, catching my breath, and looked at my friends smiling and giggling and counting their stash while James was shouting out to Ollie and Fitz how many eggs he had managed to find. It was like they were there with us.

‘Well done, all of you. Go grab yourself some water or milk and let’s have a virtual party. Let’s celebrate with chocolate!’

We all shouted ‘yes, yes’ and ‘yay’ and ‘great’ and ‘that was so much fun’ before returning with drinks.

My mother propped up all the devices in a semi-circle on the table and we chatted and giggled while stuffing our faces full of yummy mini-eggs. We talked about what it was like to learn at home and what we missed most and the least about going to school. We planned what we would do when we could finally run in the park again together. 

‘Wait ‘til you see how good I’ve gotten on my skateboard,’ Ollie said to my brother.

James one-upped him with: ‘I bet I’m still faster than you!’

Then Fitz, who is rather afraid of travelling on things that go fast, replied that he would happily be the official timer if his two friends wanted to race.

We girls listened and laughed at the boys and how they always wanted to find out who was better than who in everything. Well, James and Ollie did. Fitz was always happy to just watch and cheer them on.

‘My parents gave me the prettiest, pink tutu today,’ said Ruby, who then twirled in front of the camera so Zara and I could ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at her new ballet costume.

‘Pink tutus!’ My brother exclaimed.

‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘but we’re trying to have a private conversation here.’

Then we all laughed. I could see everyone smiling on the screens in front of us.

We may not have been able to slide down slides and chase each other, or climb trees or log-roll down hills, but we got to be together and it was brilliant!

After dinner, I asked my mother if I could make an Easter card for Papa and Grandma. She said they would love that.

My mother covered the dining table with a large, plastic sheet. I then swept pastel paint across paper, creating a picture of Easter eggs decorated with pretty patterns, to send to my grandparents.

Before bedtime, my mother and brother and I sat in front of the computer and rang Papa and Grandma.

‘How was your Easter, lovelies?’ asked my Grandma. She always calls us lovelies. That’s probably where my mother gets it from.

‘It was brilliant, Grandma!’ I replied.

‘Yeah, great,’ said my brother.

‘Did the Easter Bunny come or was he too busy talking to Santa Claus?’ Asked my grandfather. My mouth flew open…how did Papa know about my dream last night!

‘We miss you! I made you an Easter card. We’re going to send it to you right now.’

My mother tapped on the keyboard, opening up a photo she took of the painting I made them that afternoon. Then she hit send and it was gone.

A moment later, my grandparents were gushing: ‘Ooh, it’s beautiful!’ and ‘We love it!’

I love the card, too. I love it because it made Papa and Grandma happy and because I got to colour my world today. I coloured it in pretty Easter colours of pale-green and buttercup-yellow, and sky-blue and rosy-pink.

Here is my card…do you love it, too?

Did you colour your world in colours today? What colours would you use?

Did you have a lovely Easter?

I’ll share another story about me and my friends soon!

Effie x

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