I love everything about the holidays. I adore family traditions like building a new gingerbread house, making and decorating gingerbread ornaments to give away, buying Advent calendars and having a cookie decorating party at Hannah's for the kids which ended with the plastic tablecloth covered in frosting, sugars and sprinkles. My grandson Noah, age 6, is beyond excited by it all.
When driving, I listen to either the all-day Christmas station, which mostly plays pop standards like Jingle Bells and All I Want for Christmas is You, or the classical station, whose play list includes beautiful orchestral arrangements and more traditional music. I've always loved the ancient carols, including Once in Royal David's City, The Coventry Carol, The Holly and the Ivy and I Wonder as I Wander. Then there are the spirituals such as Mary Did You Know, Rise Up Shepherd and Follow, and Go Tell it On the Mountain. My favorite carols are the ones in a minor key. They seem especially appropriate this Christmas with the physical and economic suffering, as well as the loss of life that has been with us since spring.
Yesterday, we watched one of my favorite Christmas movies: The Family Stone. The five children of a college professor and his wife gather for Christmas, with the eldest son bringing his uptight girlfriend to meet everyone. While there are many hilarious and awkward moments, there's also an undercurrent of sadness. The mother of these young adults, played by Diane Keaton, has had breast cancer and she is once again sick, although not everyone knows. She stares disconsolately at a Christmas ornament and later marvels at the snow coming down, knowing that time is running out. When the family gathers the next Christmas, she is not there. There are two new grandchildren she will never know.
I thought of all the thousands of families whose loved ones will not be with them this Christmas because of COVID-19, and the cruel reality that many will not even be able to gather and console each other. We are so fortunate that most of our family lives nearby (except Pete, who lives in Richmond, VA). We feel comfortable in our little "pod" and are extra careful about exposure to others., so we've all stayed healthy so far.
My fervent Christmas wish is that the vaccine we will receive in the next few months will be effective and bring the pandemic to a halt or at least under control, that our economy will begin to recover and that next Christmas will be a happier one for our country.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.