Thursday, December 24, 2020

This Cursed and Blessed Year

Just before Christmas last year, we discovered that the company from whom we rent a storage locker had lost all of our stuff. The good news is that most of it probably should have been thrown out years ago, but among the things we'll never see again were all of our holiday decorations, including ornaments I'd been collecting since I was a little boy. So, for the first time in our 34 years of marriage, and for the first time in our daughter's 23 years of life, we celebrated against a backdrop that did not include a tree, stockings, or any of the other ritual trapping of our holiday. Fortunately, our Christmas Day tradition also involves gathering with my parents, my siblings, and their children, which went off as usual. In the parlance of Hollywood, Christmas was "saved."

This year, we don't even have that. Indeed, there is nothing "traditional" in our celebration at all: no gathering, no shopping, no decorations, and no gift exchange except what will amount to a symbolic one between the three of us. Tonight, I'm cooking a pared down version of my Thanksgiving supper since we missed that this year as well. Tomorrow, we're relying on the delivery of Chinese food. We'll probably spend the next couple days watching movies and talking over reality shows. The holiday traditions we've built together as a family are asunder leaving us with . . . What?

Of course, a version of this experience is being played out by people around the world this year as we pass through this season for celebrating our respective festivals of lights. The year has been cursed with plague, hatred, and a general breathtaking unhinged-ness. We need a rest. We need a little sanctuary. We need something normal to ground us. That is what our traditions are for, yet these too have been decimated by this horrible, no good, very bad year.

This is not to say that no good has come from this year. It's in the nature of a proper curse to have two sides. "May you live in interesting times" is also a blessing. "May all your dreams come true" is also a curse. I'm not wishing this year away, but today as I contemplate the wreckage these past 365 days have made upon the traditions I hold (held?) dear, I'm dwelling on what we have left.

We have one another. The three of us are together. That sometimes got a bit lost behind the decorations and all the history (baggage?) they brought into the season. There is no stress over gifts or meal preparation or getting from one place to another on time. We are spending our days in loungewear, napping, and telling our family stories. We are walking together and notice things that have changed both over time and suddenly, mourning the losses and anticipating the gains. We don't have our traditions to shelter us this year, but there is sanctuary nonetheless. There is rest. And there is the magnificent normality of our love, stripped of its trappings, made central by the loss of tradition. That is what we are left with. That is really all there was all along. 

Next year, I hope our merrier traditions can return, renewed by this cursed and blessed year.


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