I can honestly say two years ago I never would have imagined texting my son as follows:
“Your PCR is negative! Hope you have a good day at school. Stay away from Dad. He’s sneezing etc. I LOVE YOU“
Hard to believe PCRs didn’t even exist back then. Nor LFTs. Nor the vaccination.
Hard to believe in December 2019, I was blissfully unaware of what was to come. I was jamming in Christmas present buying, family party preparing, wrapping, fairy light hanging, blaring ole Nat King Cole and singing along with Jack Frost nippin’ at my nose.
December 2021 I find myself in such a different place. Everything has ground to a halt since last Friday and that niggling cough, I thought was me having caught Skyler’s flu, tested positive for COVID. Instead I’ve got my Christmas to do list glaring at me. Fantasies of a big jolly elf hooking us up on the 25th. Brown paper packages waiting to be sent to the States. Presents unpurchased. Christmas cards unwritten, unopened gathering dust. Should I still write them? I wonder when I can’t even get to the post office until self-isolation is over.
My Christmas spirit is waning before it even got into full swing. I’m finding it hard to embrace the holiday season, maybe hesitating to protect myself from it not happening …as might be the case for the second year running.
I’m immune to Miracle on 34th Street watched while wrapping the gifts I internet ordered early. Cute Natalie Wood and all those old fashioned NYC accents—which usually work a charm– left me disengaged. Maybe it’s because I can’t smell my favourite Christmas scents. I feel bitter about missing the heady cinnamon-y frankincense of my favourite candles, gingerbread, and peppermint hand wash. I actually feel mad having my sense of taste and smell’s volume, so to speak, literally turned off.
Monitoring RSVPs for our annual party which we might not even be able to hold on the 23rd isn’t helping.
Watching Skyler’s final rugby matches as a school boy, not pitch side, but via live stream definitely letting me down.
I feel robbed in this ‘most wonderful time of the year’. No Bing or Vince Guaraldi’s piano playing ringing in my ear. No singing along as loud as I can to Gloria In Excelcisis Deo in church like I’m some kind of Andrea Bocelli.
How can I when I keep trying to figure our how we’re gonna get a tree? I guess Skyler will have to go by himself to choose it and we’ll get it delivered cause it won’t fit in his VW Polo.
This is unheard of if you know me even a little bit.
I’m trying to plug in like my fairly lights. Trying to glow bright. Not the icicle white kind, but the warm white. The kind that draws you in. Gives you a sense of pulling up to a fire where I can warm my hands and some chestnuts while I’m at it. I try to look to my cat, Coco, who has the most amazing ability to seemingly quadruple her size when she stretches on our hearth exposing as much of her back to the flames as she can.
Deciding to trust the warmth generating from my bookclub pals in England and writing buddies in North Carolina who check in on me on WhatsApp. From Mary Kate who never ceases to make me laugh and shares a picture of her family tree in Pennsylvania that looks just like the ones from our childhood. From Megan in London and Christy in Falmouth including me in their day to day while telling me not to fret about Christmas stuff because all they really want for Christmas is to come home.
I rummage through my memories to find a way. I resort to reading an old advent calendar book…a story a day that counts down the journey to Bethlehem from my children’s childhood. The nostalgia begins to work its magic especially as I recall reading the book to my children each night of December and following it with nightly prayers said out loud and together.
I am no saint. I pray for those closest to me. They mean the most to me and I believe my prayers have the power to look after them. But I also raise prayers, too, for all those struggling…the book reminds me of the importance of remembering all those who are struggling for shelter, for survival of life and the season. All trying to find some kind of a bright star to follow, to find a way to make the holidays and life, before, during and after, work. I am aware, more than ever this December 2021, that for some it’s an annual struggle. I’m hoping my sensitivity this year will make me even more appreciative for all I do have.
I give thanks for vaccinations and the health care workers who continue tirelessly to take care of all of us. I pray the inoculations with be spread as far and wide as Buddy the Elf’s holiday cheer. I pray people’s generosity will stretch to all those in need of resources, of faith, of stamina to make it through.
I begin counting down, not to the holiday, but instead figuring out on my fingers how many more days until I can hug my family again.
It focuses my appreciation for such a simple thing. Heightening my appreciation for what I am missing.
As the world faces yet another round of this thing, I try and use the moments we have managed to grab together in recent months…maskless, in person… to keep as cups of inspiration as seemingly bountiful as those mugs of milk to be left for Santa in two weeks time… Nick attending his weekly Toastmasters, Christy in her art studio, Skyler in actual classrooms and a weekly 18th birthday party, Megan out dancing with friends. Walking with Karen, a dinner party of rugby parents, a real life pub nights out with Henar, Cliff, Abi and Richard, Fortune and Sam, Dinner at Mercers Hall with Becky and Lars…
Sleepless, I looked out the window from my bed last night. No Dasher or Dancer, but instead in the dark cold clear night I saw Orion glowing and planets coming up over the horizon. Celestial beauties outsparkling the strings of lights I have wrapped around my tree and throughout the house and yard. I felt humbled by this reminder of my place in the universe. Bedazzled by the beauty of the world we live in. Appreciative of this gift.
And then, without warning, like the Grinch’s heart growing three times the size and busting out of his cartoon x-ray, I felt ready to greet the day this morning with this message wanting to share it with you—almost like Dickens’ Scrooge shouting Happy Christmas to all the Crachits.
In the end I reckon, whether I’m feeling more It Came Upon a Midnight Drear or Joy to The World, it’s just fine. No need to beat ourselves up about it. As Skyler always tells me, “It’s all good.”
Instead I can sing (but it’s probably better for everyone if I listen) to Let It Go. No, not that one. James Bay’s one. It’s a great song —nothing to do with the Christmas or COVID, but everything to do with letting things go:
So come on, let it go
Just let it be
Why don’t you be you
And I’ll be me?
Everything that’s broke
Leave it to the breeze
Why don’t you be you
And I’ll be me
His haunting voice and emphatic guitar playing bring it home. If you feel the need just turn it up loud and sing it like an anthem.
I guess what I’m trying to say is whether the big C that is looming over you is Christmas or COVID or Christmas with COVID, there’s something there higher up, overseeing it all. And even in the seemingly great spans of darkness, there are lights to guide us, help us find our way home, and back to ourselves. Be patient with yourself, I can personally confirm it’s not always easy to see them. But with a little trust, the warm ones always shine through.