Darkness and Light

It’s ten minutes to four as I start this entry, and it feels like 7 pm. It’s been getting gradually darker outside for the last 40 minutes, which has left the living room (where I’ve been camping most of the day) glowing cozily in the light of the tree.

Yes, we put up our Christmas tree. We have a five-year-old, and his year (and ours) has sucked. Its been my mantra for years, but I will stand by it most vehemently this year: let people have their silly, insignificant little joys. Let them have their frivolous fun. Just, for God’s sake, let them eek whatever enjoyment they can out of the fleeting moments of levity this year.

And for those who just can’t seem to muster up the enthusiasm for the holidays (or anything) right now, that’s also okay. This has been a clusterfuck of a year; it’s been rough, and traumatic, and depressing, and some people have been hit especially hard. We all cope in different ways. But that’s just it: we all cope in different ways. Putting up my tree and cranking Christmas carols is cathartic for me. Like, is there something to be said about the agressive pushing and commercialization of the holiday and it’s increasing encroachment on the calendar? Oh, absolutely. But maybe not this year, ok?**

This has long been my favorite part of the year, and even though this year is going to be a lot different, I still love the chill in the air, the lights and the music, finding gifts to make people smile, and having time at home with my family.

I’m not sure how that’s going to play out this year; for a long time, my state was at something like a .5% positivity rate, so we opened up our quarantine pod to my parents and brother (and the family they live with). Now with rates soaring again, even though their lifestyle has not changed (they are still exercising all the same precautions as they were at the start of the pandemic), I’ve become paranoid and nervous once more. There was never a plan for a big gathering, but I had considered stopping by to see them over the long weekend, to do a Hunt a Killer box or have a movie night. Now, I’m not sure about seeing them at all for the foreseeable future.

This is the first time, I think, since the start of the pandemic, that I have acutely felt like I’m going to be missing out on something important. My birthday hasn’t been a major event in years (my last “big” hurrah was my 30th, and even that was only about six people, and a fairly cozy upscale brewery experience), and our anniversary has traditionally been a quiet affair (an overnight babysitter, a really nice dinner out, and then home to cozy up and watch Netflix, because we are secretly 80 years old). The winter holidays have always been the consistent biggest celebration of the year since… huh. Since I was born, really.

My folks went all out on Christmas. I mean, gift tallies in the thousands of dollars, seeing every conceivable relative on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, prepping and eating massive amounts of food, bottles of wine and bear everywhere, heaps of homemade pastries, new frilly outfits, special breakfasts. Going to a Catholic school — as I did for sixteen years — meant that even the run-up to the holidays was festive. We had nativity plays, devoted Christmas prayer services, holiday gift exchanges, Christmas talents shows, movie days. The holiday was huge and immersive.

We… have pared it back. Quite a bit. We do the tree, and some crafts; we always visit Kira’s family on Christmas Eve and mine on Christmas Day. We watch holiday movies and play Christmas music, and I make a special breakfast Christmas morning. My parents still go all out, and Bear, as well as both Kira and I , are showered with more gifts than we know what to do with, but our at-home affair is more modest. Even so, it’s going to be quite a deviation to not be able to tour around and see the families this year.

I mean, I get it. I understand it.

It still sucks.

But. I’m hearing news of three viable vaccines; I’m hearing some of the early rounds could start being distributed next month. I’m hearing experts hopeful that this will be “over” by mid-year 2021. I feel like we still have a ways to go — and I don’t plan to abandon the mask in public anytime soon (or ever, honestly; I think it’s a great idea if you’re sick, or in huge crowds, or during cold/flu season), but it’s still nice to see the glimmer of a light at the end of a tunnel. It’s nice to think of this as something finite. I will sacrifice a face-to-face Christmas if it means full freedom to visit my parents, and play with my game Night crew, and have dinner at our favorite vineyard spot, and hold the babies my friends delivered in the midst of COVID, and be the Matron of Honor at my best friend’s wedding.

And hey, maybe we can have a Christmas in July.


**An addendum to the, “don’t be a dick about people celebrating the holidays early:”

While no one should be crapping on your happy-fun-times, where you are simply trying to find some joy in this dumpster fire of a year, neither should you be compounding other people’s troubles or hardships. While there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we are still in the midst of a pandemic. Retail workers, who are some of the hardest working and least appreciated people on the planet in ordinary time, do not need to be dealing with a Christmas rush this year, and — sorry — have a right to be upset at masses of unruly crowds, this year more than ever. COVID is still happening, people; string up your lights, put up your tree, buy gifts online, send them to your loved ones, hunker down at home in front of the computer with a big mug of hot cocoa and have a fun Zoom Christmas (or go and see the select members of your quarantine pod). But stay out of stores. Stay away from crowds. Shop local when you can; shop independent makers; shop digitally.

Stay safe.

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