Christmas this year, like every other holiday and milestone since Covid appeared, seems to bring with it a sense of loss and lowered expectations. Our homes won’t be as full as usual as loved ones stay away to thwart the spread of the virus. For the first year since I gave birth to my daughter, she is not celebrating with us. Instead, she’s one of those brave health care workers taking care of patients, working a Christmas shift in a hospital far from here.
My 81 year old mother in law who usually travels by plane to spend the holidays with our family, her only son and grandchildren, has stayed in Fargo, not wanting to risk the virus. And closer to home, spending time with my very large group of siblings, their children, even my own mother who is bravely managing lockdown at her senior living community, is just not happening.
I attended Christmas Eve mass in a parking lot, tuning the radio to hear the priest who gave mass in a tent outside the church. I received communion through my car window, served up by Eucharistic ministers bundled up in outerwear and masks. Only in 2020.
This Christmas means one giant ham for three people. This year, it’s my husband, my son and myself celebrating. Three stockings on the mantle instead of five. I put up the tree and on Christmas Eve we opened presents and laughed at the practicality of them. I opted for “family gifts” – a gourmet food basket, a complicated board game, a coffee table book. My husband gave me a s’mores set for our new fire pit.
My son won the thoughtful gift award when he steered us outside in the freezing night air and showed us a garden stake in the shape of an airplane planted in our yard. And not just any airplane. An accurate likeness, including tail number of my dads P40, one of his favorite planes. My father, who passed away in May, would have loved it. My heart softened. Kinda like the Grinch when he finally got the point of Christmas.
We attempted playing the board game, we watched a new movie on Netflix, and then we turned in – wondering what Christmas Day would feel like.
On Christmas morning I stumbled out of bed to let the dogs out and and promptly smacked my foot against a corner sending shooting pains to my previously broken little toe. A fitting start to Covid Christmas, I mused. As I limped to the kitchen to get the coffee started, I came upon the remnants of the night before; Christmas gifts strewn on the counter, evidence of late night snacking and the Christmas tree in the corner – ready to be switched on.
As I sipped my coffee and prepared breakfast it struck me that while this Christmas is not what any of us hoped for, Christmas in fact still arrived. And with it, hope for the future, for a return to a more normal Christmas next year and most of all, a reminder to never take anything for granted.
My Christmas wish is that everyone reading this reaches out to a loved one and tells them how much they mean to them and that they are in their hearts this Christmas. May 2021 bring health and healing to all of us.