It’s mid-December. Yule be merry. I’ll be bright. The Polar Express is bearing down upon me and…
I am…ok with it.
Trust me, no one is more surprised by this strange turn of events than I am. Far from feeling festive in the months of November and December, I’m usually fretful. Not so much seasonal as stressed. And if my cheeks are rosy, it’s usually not with merriment, but frustration.
Listen, I’m not pirouetting around the apartment like a Sugar Plum Fairy or hanging stockings by the chimney with care or anything like that. I’m not quite ready to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight, but it is true I’m also not dreading the season to be jolly…as much.
The truth is, how do you screw up a pandemic Christmas?
You can burn the roast beast, bust the baubles, and tangle up the tinsel and it would just be par for the course. It would be the most 2020 thing ever. You can last minute order a gift that doesn’t get there and blame it on the postal service. You can order take out for Christmas dinner and claim to be helping your local restaurant during lockdown. You don’t have to schlep young kids and gifts and wrack your brain trying to figure out how Santa’s going to deliver that massive Lego set because no one is going anywhere.
The first Noel, the angel did say: there are no rules, so do whatever you want, chickita.
And this mom? Well this mom was nestled all snug in her bed, while visions of the lowest expectations danced through her head.
Back when flying was a thing I did on the regular, there was always a moment when, after I got over my fear of falling out of the sky, a wave of relaxation would wash over me. Truly, I’m not sure I am ever as mentally relaxed as I am on a plane. And the reason is…I can’t do anything. Forgot the whites in the washer? Can’t do anything about it. Lost the list of emergency contacts? Nothing I can do. I’m above the cloud line, incommunicado, and for a while, at least until my knees start cramping up or the person in front of me throws their seat back, I can luxuriate in knowing there is nothing I can do about the to-do list of endless, banal things that never get done. There is no guilt about the things I could or should be doing.
I feel the same way about the holidays this year. The circumstances are out of my control. I am above the Covid line, at the mercy of a virus and restrictions. There is nothing I can do about it. There is nothing I feel like I *should* be doing instead.
In other words, even I can’t screw this up.
Of course the things I do enjoy about the holidays will be missing from our festivities this year. Some of my favorite memories are of the scattered clan gathered around my table playing cards or sitting squashed and squeezed on the sofa watching those shocked little faces the first time they hear Bruce Willis shout “Yippie ki yay, motherfu*$er!”
But…it’s an open secret that with the yuletide warmth of family togetherness comes a thousand reasons for a Mom to stress the hell out. There’s a lot to do. There’s a lot at stake. There are dreams and Christmas wishes and expectations and so much food that seemingly needs to be cooked all at once. There is wrapping and bank balance checking and wracking one’s brain to figure out what a whole bunch of people who need nothing might like. There are family dynamics and making sure the bar is stocked to lubricate those same dynamics.
But this year? Hell, we could get pizza. We could sit in our underpants all day watching crappy non-Christmas movies. We can chuck the tree over the balcony at midnight on December 25th and be done with the whole thing.
Is there a Christmas custom you can’t stand? Chuck it. A desert you detest? Dump it. Obligations? Omit them.
2020 is the year of anything goes. And if there are no rules, there are no expectations to dash, no dreams to dismantle. In a year when everything that could go wrong did go wrong, you could channel the Ghost of Christmas No Presents and it would still be ok.
It turns out, a pandemic Christmas is a Christmas even a grinch like me can get behind.
Of course all of that is just the wrapping and the bows. Underneath my less than normal disdain for jingling bells and red-nosed reindeers is the real reason I’m not dreading Christmas 2020.
In a year when so much could have gone awry, we have been so very lucky. We have our health. We are beyond privileged in the where and the how we have been able to ride out this plague. Our small family unit is not only intact, but closer than ever. Our extended family, though far and wide, are safe and healthy.
We are so very fortunate when so many others have not been. And as I put items in my online cart and arrange Zoom festivities with far flung family and friends, even as I complain about the exorbitant price of a tin of Quality Street chocolates here in Denmark, that fortune is what keeps blinking and flashing like a string of lights.
In a brown paper package all tied up in string is my most fortunate thing: Our holiday may look and feel a little bit different, but not where it matters.
Well, that’s enough to make even a Grinch Mom’s heart grow three sizes today.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.