Ah, the question of the year, one to which I must answer: mostly nothing.
As it is for many households right now, this question is complicated for mine. Yeah, yeah, you can say it shouldn’t be — go right ahead. That’s just not the truth for many people, and I think it’s fine to recognize it. For example, I have a grandma in assisted living who, since March, went from never forgetting my birthday to not remembering my name. And now she gets to spend her first holiday season ever — which very well could be her last at this point — alone. I have family we only get to see a couple of times a year whose “couple times” may be reduced to zero. There will be no stories at my parents’ small dining room table, no off-brand shots of Bailey’s with my dad, and no painful losses in Scrabble with my brother.
This is the holiday season of “No.”
While I don’t know what we are doing for Christmas just yet, Thanksgiving has definitively been canceled. It’s sad. I’m sad. But it’s one Thanksgiving of many that haven’t been and (hopefully) won’t be canceled. This year, it just feels safer to stay at home.
Truthfully, Thanksgiving in June doesn’t sound great to me. Something about eating turkey and stuffing and other comfort foods just doesn’t go with flip flops and hot sunshine. And Christmas in July is a concept that is OK, I guess, when we have Christmas in December as it should be.
Overall, I’m not extremely thrilled by the idea of “making new traditions.” In fact, I’m really sick of hearing that suggestion — especially since the word “tradition” suggests we will be repeating these things as if in the future, we will willingly choose to trade hugs and card games for Zoom calls where half the people don’t mute their mics and the other half whose cameras only show their Adam’s apples and nostrils. I sincerely hope we are not making these things traditions.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m not disappointed at the way this is all unfolding because I am really disappointed. There’s no point in covering that up, and it seems like a lot of people are trying to.
If there’s one thing I try really hard to do as a parent, it’s being as honest as possible. My son knows I am sad about all of this. He is, too. And because of that, I think we will be able to move forward and celebrate the season with joy — just joy that’s going to be different than usual.
The past few weeks I’ve been holding onto a little shred of hope that by Christmas, things would be better. I think a lot of people are. In the last few days, though, I started working on embracing the fact that, really, things will likely be worse by December 25th. By then, we might be locked down again. Despite the warnings about Thanksgiving, many people will still decide to get together. Despite the pleas of healthcare workers and many other educated experts, 2 MILLION PEOPLE flew somewhere the weekend before Thanksgiving. A lot of those people will be getting back on planes in a few days, and, well, the seat belt sign just lit up, and it’s time we all buckle up and buckle down because this landing won’t be smooth.
I love the holidays. I really, really love Christmas. It pains me to even consider not celebrating, but I have considered just that. That’s not what’s happening, though. If anything, I need to celebrate this season more than ever before — and with a kid in the house, it’s not possible to cancel it all anyway, so I’ve gone the other direction.
We started listening to Christmas music in the car when I heard it on the radio just a week after Halloween. We decorated the house and put up the tree for the first time ever before Thanksgiving. And you know what? All the decking of the halls has made me feel better. That tree with those lights shining on all the mismatched ornaments in the corner of the living room makes me feel safe and ready for hibernation. My husband even set up the train around the tree—and the train is a royal pain in the ass because J knocks it off its tracks all the time, so you know we are serious about the cheer and magic despite the lack thereof in 2020.
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I’m sick of “making the most of it” a lot of days. Everyone is. And with the recent announcements of the vaccines, so close that I can feel the most welcomed pinch of a needle in my arm already, it is really, really hard right now to not just throw caution to the wind and run into the streets, hugging every human I see because there is finally light at the end of this dark tunnel we’ve been living in. It’s not time to give in, though, because this isn’t over yet.
I don’t know what to tell you about the holidays besides don’t be reckless. If you have to pretend they’re not happening to stay safe, then do that — or slap those reindeer antlers and a red nose on your car and hang paper snowflakes from your ceiling. Hell, get that stupid-looking blow-up lawn penguin and put him in the middle of your front yard. There’s no better year to do it. Make yourself some hand turkeys and plaster them all over your walls. Fill up your fanciest wine glasses, use those dessert forks, and pile the whipped cream high on your pumpkin pie and hot chocolate. Whatever is going to make you feel better about this being one of the weirdest, stupidest, hardest, longest years of your life, its end culminating in a series of lonely holidays, that’s the thing you should do this season.
When Christmas Eve hits over here at my house, we will be wearing obnoxious matching green-and-red striped pajamas and watching the Yule log burn on Netflix. At Thanksgiving, we’re making the whole ridiculous meal—turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, two pies—the whole bit for just three people, one who doesn’t even count as a whole person when it comes to food.
We’re going to enjoy ourselves. That’s all I really know about anything right now. If any of us are feeling sad, we won’t force the fun. Wallowing is allowed this season, and I imagine sadness will hit for all of us at one point or another, but over here, when we’re feeling happy, we’re going to dance.
Hang on, folks. We’re not out of the dark yet, but someone is about to give us a flashlight.
Marissa is the co-author of Urine Luck, but sometimes she writes about things other than bathrooms. Marissa has been writing for the Devil Strip since August of 2015.