December has always been a big month in our family. My son was born on December 15; our wedding anniversary is December 19; and Christmas is our favorite holiday. While our kids (adults now) spend Thanksgiving with their in-laws, we’ve been fortunate to have them with us for Christmas. Until this year.
We knew well ahead of time that our son, who lives in Los Angeles, wouldn’t be coming home for his birthday or Christmas. But the rest of our plans remained up in the air until the last minute. My mom and dad, aged 88 and 87, were diagnosed with COVID-19 in November; we had no idea how they got it. By Christmas, thankfully, they were recovering though still fatigued.
Our anniversary tradition for many years has been to spend a few nights in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or nearby in Pigeon Forge, where we do our last-minute Christmas shopping. I always look forward to the lights in the area, and a favorite restaurant in the Old Mill complex. We rented a cabin for two nights in 2020 in Pigeon Forge, figuring we’d stay inside mostly, and we headed that way. Within an hour, we started getting phone calls from concerned family and friends.
Apparently Tennessee had been listed as the worst state in the U.S. for numbers of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000, and Sevier County (where we were heading) one of the worst counties in the state. After about three such calls, we turned our car around and went home. My husband, knowing I usually order quiche there, promised to bake a special quiche at home.
For the past few years, we have attended a Christmas Eve church service, where my niece sings a solo of Ave Maria. For 2020, the service was to be virtual. But would we have our usual Christmas Eve party? All family members planned to get tested for COVID-19 in time to get the results before Christmas Eve. My daughter and her family were planning to head our way on December 23. Then they got their COVID-19 test results. My daughter had tested positive, and they were all being quarantined.
We told my sister, niece, and parents. If we all wore masks and didn’t serve food, would a small party be safe? We decided it would. We felt blessed to be together and spent much of the party on a zoom call with those who weren’t there in person. Not the same, but special and memorable in its own way.
Sad news about family and friends less fortunate began to drift in. It saddens me too much to share those details, so I won’t.
I left our Christmas decorations and tree up this year until after January 9, when we thought it safe to celebrate our grandson Finn’s ninth birthday (actual birthday January 4). We opened our Christmas gifts that day as well. Christmas in January! How wonderful to see him, his sister Elise (age 5), and their parents in person at last!