We woke at the usual time, before 5am, only today I walked downstairs before Gary had finished making the coffee, and we sat together before the fire. This is not a “normal” morning because it is Christmas. It is not like last year when we soaked in the pool at the Kennedy School and watched our grandchildren unwrap gifts.
It is not normal because we, like many others, are at home and without family sitting nearby. Gary has put on a CD of a Catalonian Midnight Mass because last night we listened to John Denver and the Muppets and watched When Harry Met Sally for the umpteenth time. It is time now for something ancient.
Last night I opened the package I had convinced Gary was make-up I’d ordered as a gift to myself. He had not argued with this, had not pointed out that I have not worn any make-up in years, or even gallantly insisted I did not need any. The packet contained a sweater to replace the one he was wearing that has holes. I have darned it, but my darning leaves much to be desired.
This is not a normal year.
It is not normal because our tree is not green and the winged animals and glass clippy birds have not come out to play. Instead, the tree is artificial and the decorations are shells I have gathered. I threaded ones with little holes drilled by some hungry sea life. They are pearly and translucent.
It is not normal that Gary insisted he preferred I make curried pumpkin instead of pie, and I did not spend a day making tamales because I had no way to get fresh masa. There are no powdered sugar cookies, no gingerbread moose.
It is not normal because, though we know there are packages waiting at the Post Office, we will not travel today or tomorrow or perhaps not even the next. Once a week to face the traffic is enough. We will walk.
It is not normal that on our “inside” walks when the beach is too wild even for us, we are alarmed by the cars we find. Most are out-of-state, split between California and Washington, with a few from Colorado or Idaho or Georgia. Virginia. Texas. In another year, this would be interesting.
It is not normal that we are afraid, sometimes, to look at the news. But we look anyway.
It is not normal that I have nothing on my loom, no quilt underway, and the half-knit second sock is neglected in a basket.
It is not normal, because “normal” is not coming back the way we remember. I read comments by entomologists about when we might go “back to normal” and one said there is no back, only forward.
So forward we will go. Some habits will carry with us. Some we will fold away. We will be more careful of our own and others’ illness, mask in public, and avoid opportunities to pass infection. We will not take our health for granted.
Forward, we will remember to tell people often how we care for and love them. I will continue to bake bread and cinnamon rolls every few days. We will shop in stores even less often than before. We will picnic rather than eat in restaurants. We might figure out how to add Hulu to our channels. For many reasons we might never fly again.
Yesterday, Gary and I (mostly Gary) managed to carry our oldest tenant’s replacement front door from the upstairs of our duplex down into the garage. I had primed and applied two coats of paint, let it cure a week. I sewed a curtain for the bedroom window. The man who wants to rent that apartment is sleeping in his car.
There are losses for too many. (When is one suffering not too many?) We feel fortunate that no one we love has died. We will continue to be careful for most or all of the coming year. It is too easy to be impatient as I sit before the fire, safe and comfortable with this man I trust and love—our 52nd Christmas together. The soloist singing in Latin or Catalan? It does not matter which. The way forward is always new. We are fools to drag all the past along, when we might aspire to carry only what rests lightly on our shoulders.
Soon, I will put a warp on my loom, because, as Gary points out this morning, I enjoy watching the work happen under my hands.
We wish you comfort and joy, but if that is not at hand or you are spending your first holiday solo, please know you are not alone. Millions of people are looking ahead for something new and different . . . better. We hope you find it too.