Our tree has been up since the second weekend in November. Our elves, Elfie, and new arrival Twinkles arrived on Thanksgiving night for a season of tricks. We’ve drunk hot chocolate and watched Elf. We open our advent calendars every morning. We are going through the motions in a holiday season that is anything but normal.
My calendar is noticibly empty. A time of year when invites typically elicit a “hell yes” I now I find myself trapped by the weight of yet another decision. Every decision these days has a tendency of feeling like life or death. And will a fleating moment of joy (dinner with a friend, a visit with family, a holiday event) lead to illness and fear.
I find myself feeling like a guest at a party no one wanted to attend but the host thought would be fun. And rather than let the person realize the event is a flop I’m out here pouring more drinks, turning up the music, and pulling out all the stops to make everyone have a good time. I hope my children are having a good time. The elves’ shenanigans have become more elaborate. The holiday fun more insistent. Maybe this won’t completely screw them up if I can give them some joy. So I dance, even though the show has been going on since March and I’m exhausted. Let’s go look at Christmas lights! Who wants to bake cookies?
And the holidays like everything in 2020 are heavy. I have friends who have lost so much, friends who can’t afford presents, friends who have been sick, friends whose mental health has been suffering. So many of the women in my life are painting on a smile, making themselves “zoom” ready to mask the uncertainty that fills them. We still have to wrap the gifts, make the magic, bake the cookies, mail the cards, do all the things that in a normal year feels like a lot and now we have to do it all while working and distance learning and living with our own fear and anxiety and hoping that, that fear and anxiety won’t trickle down to our children.
Time marches on and in a few days, Christmas will be here. The songs say “we have so much to celebrate” and yet so many of the lessons we have learned in 2020; cherishing time with family, the value of traditions, the importance of friendship, can’t be celebrated in the same way. Those things we want to hold near and dear are also the things we are being asked to forgo.
And still there are glimmers of hope that maybe, maybe this season won’t be forever. That vaccines, new leadership, new treatments will give us back some of the things we lost this year, “a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices”.
Till then, I’ll sprinkle cinnamon in my cold coffee as I make my way to a virtual holiday party. I’ll open my wine advent calendar and then my cheese one and then chocolate. I’ll bake another batch of cookies. I’ll hope that last-minute gift arrives on time. I’ll watch Love Actually just to hear Hugh Grant say, “whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world…”. I’ll remind myself that God-willing this is temporary. I’ll sip my wine and watch the lights on my tree sparkle and think, “Tis the damn season”.