The week that follows Christmas and Boxing Day may just be my favourite week of the year. The busy-ness of Christmas preparations, which often flows over into Boxing Day, is finished. On the calendar, there is nothing marked as “to do” – just enjoy each day with the gifts that it brings.
At our home, Al, Danielle and I are doing just that. A giant crossword puzzle with over 300 clues hangs on the wall in the hallway. We pause as we pass it and try to fill in a few more clues. The 1000 piece Christmas jigsaw is laid out on a table; it may get finished by the end of January! I indulged my enjoyment of baking by making cinnamon rolls one day, and Apple Coffee Cake another. We ordered a platter of Greek food for Danielle’s birthday dinner (my baby is 39! Can you believe it?) and there’s leftovers enough for another day. A grab-bag of books from the library keep me reading past midnight in the delicious quiet of a sleeping home. Phone calls and emails remind us that we are blessed with friends and family, and with the wonder of Zoom we are able to connect and see them too, playing games together as we would if they were all here.
Which they aren’t. That’s the hard part of this year, isn’t it? I miss the hugs, the spontaneous laughter, the visits with friends, the family walks through our wonderful forest next door. I miss the freedom of making a spur-of-the-moment decision to eat out, or go to a movie, or go bowling. I miss snuggling up with a little one to share a story book or two or three. But to be honest, not all is sweetness and light at any Christmas, with its attendant busy-ness, or when a big family gathers in an enclosed space for several days...there may be tension, noise, messiness, the disappointment of unrealistic unmet expectations, frustration and utter weariness that leaves one longing to retreat to a place far away, and stay there forever. Those are the trade-offs. I know whereof I speak. I’ll take the trade-offs in a heartbeat, but that’s not possible.
So here we are, at the end of another year, a year like no other in our recent memory. We have had to learn to act together, to take care of each other by masking, distancing, staying put, if we are going to survive. We must be calm, be safe, be kind, as our Dr. Bonnie keeps reminding us.
|These rocks were piled together as a tribute to our health care workers.|
We would like to have everything get
back to normal, but, then again.. “Normal led to this,” as Ed Yong
wrote in Atlantic in August. Our current model of economic growth,
with deforestation, monocultures, rampant materialism and more, has led
to lethal viruses moving around the world, jumping from animal hosts to
human with ease. In our panic to control the virus, we haven’t thought
very carefully about what led to it. We can’t return to business as
It’s not over yet. In my optimistic moments, I get excited about the vaccines that will soon help us be safer, that will eradicate the virus once and for all. In my pessimistic moments, I mutter that we’re in it for the long haul, that when this virus is beaten into submission, another will pop up, and like a game of whack-a-mole, we’ll be in a constant state of war against insidious enemies. In a news story posted today, Michael Ryan, a senior W.H.O. official, warned that although the coronavirus pandemic has been “very severe,” it is “not necessarily the big one.” There may be more to come, unless we, as a world, change. Normal led to this.
What it means is that I have to rethink normal. We all do. What will this new normal look like? What do we have to give up, and what can we keep from that old pre-pandemic life? As a society, this will not be easy terrain to navigate. We love our creature comforts, our travel plans, our varied diets, our conveniences (order today, have it tomorrow), and everything else that goes with affluence and a global economy.
But perhaps we are looking at our post-Covid life from the wrong end of the telescope, magnifying what we will have to give up. Perhaps we have to minimize that view, and focus on something else. Maybe we need to put first things first. Instead of asking, “What do we have to give up?” perhaps we need to ask, “What can we keep? What are the givens that we don’t want to part with?”