The Ambivalence of Christmas 2020

December 24, 2020

My friend and neighbor Desmond said it well on his holiday card, “I felt more than a slight pang of ambivalence when Julia asked me to help get down the two Christmas boxes that hold our Christmas lights and decorations. Should we be celebrating Christmas or mourning? Mourning the unnecessary losses of thousands of our fellow Americans. Mourning the state of our nation, at war with itself, tearing itself apart. I said to Julia, ‘I have mixed feelings about Christmas this year. After some thought, I decided that our Christmas lights might after all be justified. We could see them as a sign of hope — hope that the vaccines will work, that our country can get itself out of this manic phase, that our family and friends survive to see the light at the end of the Covid tunnel.”

Agree with that.

Most everyone I know is doing fine. Disappointed, bored, depressed, sad, frustrated, angry at pandemic-deniers… but fine. Most of us have the luxury to find fun diversions and keep ourselves busy in novel ways to fend off boredom and anxiety. A lot of us won’t be with family. I think that’s a small price to pay to keep ourselves and our communities safe. This is what makes 2020 one for the history books. We will surely all remember what we did this year, especially these holiday seasons, to find some normalcy and joy. But it won’t stand out as unique if we just pretend it’s a year like any other. It’s shocking to me how many people are ignoring the non-essential travel ban. I mean, we could have done it safely, too, but didn’t. Wouldn’t. If everybody decides they’re exempt for whatever justifiable reasons they come up with (and we were tempted), there are bajillions of people in the airports.. then it’s not safe. Travel this year is not safe. Period. Watch the charts in about two weeks.

I go between angry, aggrieved, feeling like a chump, feeling righteous, judgy, chill. We just do what we have to do. For reasons that make sense to us. Zipping my lips, keeping my head down.

But man.. it’s a weird year to pretend all is well when it isn’t. It certainly isn’t for the 328,000 people who have died or the countless families who are barely holding it together. All is mostly well here. We miss Peter, we miss seeing our family and friends. Otherwise, we’re well. It just makes it hard to celebrate.

Yet. Jim and I have done most of what we usually do, just with less octane. Little tree, fewer decorations, quieter season. Nobody but us. We’re phoning it in with Peter and our extended families. That’s all tomorrow.. sure I’ll write about it.

We had Christmas Eve dinner tonight. Made a little event out of it.. I made myself some glögg, we had our Swedish angel merry-go-round candles, we made another version of turkey breast with bacon (this time bone-in). We took a walk tonight to see some neighborhood lights. We secretly stuffed each others’ stocking for the morning.

Small nods toward the familiar, slightly melancholy, as something’s missing.

Some pics:

The turkey… it’s almost disgusting, isn’t it? The bacon’s just for flavor, (though ever-edible as bacon is)..

Jim carving it…

He’s going to hate that shot.

We had butternut squash and au gratin potatoes.. gilding the lily, I must say.. and the cranberry sauce I made a couple of days ago…

Got a pie from Upper Crust… it was really good (Jim made whipped cream, which… why not? Lily’s now totally gilded itself into heavenly oblivion)..

Beth’s yard, at the A-Street-bend…

And across the street at the Bridges, the luminaria…

I tried several times to get Peter to join us for a while online… but he didn’t answer. On the third or fourth try I texted, “Should I worry or be happy you’re busy?” to which he responded, “the latter.” Friends and Christmas movies, as it turned out. I was glad to hear that!

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